Jeff Scott and Clemson were fortunate to have all three of their true freshmen scholarship wide receivers from the 2019 class enroll early in January.
Frank Ladson Jr., Joseph Ngata and Brannon Spector all benefited by being able to go through spring practice and get a head start on learning how to play the position in Clemson’s offense.
Scott said at Clemson’s annual summer media outing this week that he is excited to see where the trio of wideouts are at from a development standpoint when fall camp starts in August.
“I’m pleased with all three of those freshmen — Joe and Frank and Brannon — that came in this spring,” said Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. “They did a great job, picked it up very well. I think they’ve done a great job this summer, and I’ll be excited to see where they are when we get back on the field here in two weeks.”
As Scott alluded to, he was impressed by the way Ladson, Ngata and Spector learned the playbook and mental side of things in the spring. He also liked what he saw in terms of their physical size and strength.
But what impressed him even more was the way that the veterans in Clemson’s receiving corps took the freshmen under their wing.
“As coaches, we’re limited with the amount of time that we can spend in the meeting room with our guys in the spring, especially the amount of time we can be with them on the field,” Scott said. “So, it was really unique to see some of the older guys take those younger guys under their wing, and especially this summer, being able to have extra meetings.”
Ladson was ranked among the top 51 prospects in the nation by five different recruiting services coming out of South Dade (Miami) High School, while Ngata was ranked as high as the No. 21 overall player nationally (Rivals) coming out of Folsom (Calif.) High.
Both highly regarded rookies shined in the spring game at Death Valley in April. Ngata hauled in a game-high 127 yards on five receptions, including a tight-rope sideline grab and 70-yard catch-and-run. Ladson also broke the century mark, logging 102 yards on five receptions.
“Both of those guys, they had their moments in the spring,” Scott said. “I think it was great for them to get an opportunity in the spring game to go out and have some success. So, I’m excited about both of them, but there’s still a process that they have to go through.
“I remind them all the time while we’re in the meeting room – I’ll ask Justyn Ross, ‘How many plays did you play against Texas A&M?’ ‘One.’ ‘OK, how many plays did you play in the national championship game?’ ‘A lot.’ So, even for those guys that are further along than most, there’s still a process.”
In the spring, head coach Dabo Swinney touted Ladson and Ngata as two of the “most ready” receivers the Tigers have ever signed during his tenure at Clemson.
In other words, they still need to be coached and learn the nuances of the receiver position at the next level. But physically, and from a coachability standpoint, they are way ahead of the curve and ready to make an impact right away.
“I think what he said is they’re in that category of guys that were ready, very similar to Justyn (Ross) last year and maybe where Sammy (Watkins) was when he came in,” Scott said. “I think also you’re seeing that a little bit more and more because of how much development these guys are getting in high school. A lot of these guys are playing in a system that throws the ball a lot, they’re spending all summer doing seven-on-seven and skill development.”
“There’s a lot of boxes that have to be checked,” Scott added. “You’ve got to be able to win on a slant route versus press coverage or you can’t be an every-down player — you can be a spot player here and there. So, there’s a lot of different boxes that those guys have to check. But they’re on a really good course right now to be able to help us this year, and I fully expect them to have a great fall camp in August. And if they can stay healthy, I see them having a role for us this year for sure.”