CLEMSON – When Frank Ladson Jr. and Joseph Ngata stepped foot on Clemson's campus this spring, there was little doubt that the Tigers had something special.
And they proved it in the annual spring game.
Both Ladson and Ngata amassed more than 100 yards receiving, the only receivers on the two teams to hit the century mark in the game.
"Oh, man. You've all heard me say many times, I'm not trying to keep a secret on those guys. They're ready," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "They're really, really talented players. Very coachable. Just love to prepare. High character guys. ... Frank and Joseph are pretty elite, as far as just where they're starting.
"They've got a ways to go, but their starting point, it's pretty impressive to have something inspiring."
Ngata entered Clemson ranked as a five-star recruit by Rivals.com, which listed him as the 21st-best overall player in the nation, fourth-best player from California and fifth-best wide receiver. 247Sports ranked Ngata as 39th-best overall player, the ninth-best from California and eighth-best wide receiver.
Ladson entered Clemson with an even more impressive pedigree, ranked among the top 51 players in the nation by five services. As Clemson’s highest-rated player in the class of 2019 by PrepStar, he was 22nd overall and the fifth-best wide receiver with a five-star rating. He was rated No. 23 player in the nation by USA Today Chosen 25 and ranked the 33rd-best overall player by 247Sports, who also listed him as the fourth-best receiver in the nation and fourth-best overall player from Florida.
But even with the impressive lists of accolades and rankings, the area that impressed Swinney, a former wide receivers coach, was how good they were with their hands and getting off coverages.
"Early on, you know, he and Joseph got very good with their hands cause they've never had to play with their hands," Swinney said. "We don't get many guys that guys walk up and just play tight press coverage. Most of the guys that we get they're playing cover to somebody that's over the top. They’re not having to really live with release technique and having to play with their hands, eyes and feet, all working together.
"So that's usually the hardest thing for all those guys when they first get here because if you can't play with your hands, you're in trouble cause they're going against guys that are just like them. And I don't care how good your feet are, how strong you are, how fast you are, if you can't win with your hands and coordinate that with your eyes and feet, you're in trouble. So that usually takes a little time and they've made great progress."
With the start of fall camp lurking just around the corner, Swinney is anxious to see the work that the two, ultra-talented freshmen do during the summer workouts without the coaches eyes on them.
"Those skills and drills this Summer will be big for those guys," Swinney said. "They have great springs. I mean, they made plays on everybody. So it's gonna be really fun to watch them continue to develop."