Ready-made products: Freshmen wide receivers made their mark in the spring

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The coaches say Frank Ladson reminds them of another No. 2 - Sammy Watkins
The coaches say Frank Ladson reminds them of another No. 2 - Sammy Watkins

The Clemson coaching staff isn’t big on praising freshmen or throwing out compliments, so when one of them throws out comparisons to past players, you listen in.

Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott welcomed three new receivers into the fold in January in Joe Ngata, Frank Ladson, and Brannon Spector. All three impressed during spring practice, and Ladson and Ngata combined for ten catches for 229 yards in the Orange and White Game.

Elliott merely smiles when he’s asked about the influx of talent the Tigers get at that position every year.

“It’s like the story of the boy who cried wolf. Every year I say that we have a freshman that’s better than anyone we’ve ever had, and the trend continues,” Elliott said. “I said that last year about Justyn Ross. I said that the year before about Tee Higgins. I said that they had a chance to be as good as any of the guys we’ve had come through, guys that are doing big things on the next level.”

Elliott says that Ladson and Ngata will make an impact this season, and then gave them both some favorable comparisons.

“Those two freshmen, they are ready-made products. They have come in so advanced at the position. They have unbelievable fundamentals and technique, and they are big guys that can run,” Elliott said. “Ngata reminds you of a Terrell Owens type of build. He is just a big, strong, and fast guy. He’s really fluid for a big guy, too. And then Frank, he puts you in the mind of a Sammy Watkins. He is a 6-3 plus guy, very explosive and very natural. I am very excited to see both of them.”

Wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott loves the Watkins comparison for Ladson.

“He’s special,” Scott said. “His speed and acceleration and quickness remind me of another No. 2 we had from Florida, and that’s a pretty strong statement there.”

Elliott said the dynamic duo have grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Both of those guys have gotten not only the attention of the coaches but the attention of their teammates, as well. And they’ve gotten the attention of the guys at their position, as well, with some of the things they’ve been able to do right out of the gate,” he said. “That’s what really has made us successful is the competition on the practice field. Competition at the position level and the competition across the line of scrimmage from you.”

Wide receiver Amari Rodgers tore his ACL during the spring and knows that those freshmen will have to help pick up the slack in his absence, but he believes that won’t be a problem.

“They’re all very humble they came in the first day asking me to work, so I came in here and got those boys right – had to drop them in the grease a little bit,” Rodgers said. “That showed me something. They’re eager to get better, and it’s going to happen because they’re hungry. For them to come in here with that mindset says a lot about them.”

Scott credits all of the wide receivers that have helped turn Clemson into Wide Receiver U.

“Part of that is because of what those groups did before them,” Scott said. “That’s why a guy like Joseph Ngata, coming from Folsom, California, is here – because he watched Mike Williams and those guys make plays when he was younger.

“At the same time, there’s a strong message that talent’s great, but talent doesn’t win; it’s the character to go with the talent and I feel like we have that. That’s probably what I’m most excited about.”

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