The next great wide receiver at WRU? "Special" Ngata draws praise from Swinney

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Ngata was one of the leading receivers in the spring game
Ngata was one of the leading receivers in the spring game

CLEMSON – No one talked about Sammy Watkins this way. Nuk Hopkins didn’t get this kind of love. Mike Williams? It took a while before the platitudes began to roll in. The love for Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross didn’t start right away.

But freshman receiver Joseph Ngata? He’s different.

I asked Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney Monday night which of the freshmen would for sure skip a redshirt this season, and he didn’t hesitate in saying Ngata.

“Ngata, for sure,” Swinney said. “Fo sho.”

“He's special. He's as hard a worker that I have ever been around, seniors included. I never had a senior that was a harder worker," Swinney said. "He is one of the most focused, one of the most committed young people I have ever seen. It is amazing to watch him work. He loves to be coached. He loves to learn. He is a sponge. He loves to soak up knowledge and then he applies it. He's special."

Swinney was asked if Ngata reminded him of another player.

"I don't know if I have had one like him," Swinney said. "Maybe a faster, more athletic Kevin Youngblood. Just that big, fast, strong and athletic guy.”

Wide receivers coach Jeff Scott mentioned that Ross – who led the Tigers with 1000 receiving yards last year – played just one play against Texas A&M early in the season and had to earn his way onto the playing field.

Swinney said Ngata won’t have that problem. Before fellow freshman Frank Ladson’s injury, Ngata was working at the 9-man receiver spot and the 2-man receiver spot but has been working exclusively at the 9-man behind Tee Higgins since Ladson’s injury.

“He’s proven he can handle it,” Swinney said. “He’s got a chance to really help us. I saw pretty quick in the spring that this guy is wired, unlike your typical freshman, mentally and physically. He’s got a bright, bright future.”

Ngata finished his high school career with 188 receptions for 3,682 yards and 55 touchdowns but was rated as just the fifth-best wide receiver in the state of California for the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Swinney might disagree with those rankings – he was asked when he first noticed that Ngata was different, and he said he noticed it early in spring practice.

“Them great ones, it doesn’t take long to see it when they’re ready and ahead of the curve. Really right out of the gate, I could tell he was way ahead from your typical freshman progression,” Swinney said. “He’s just one of those guys that can play all three positions, long, technically is very advanced. I mean he’s gonna be a great player.”

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Tags: Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Joseph Ngata, Jeff Scott
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