Four months after going through their first spring practice at Clemson, true freshmen wide receivers Frank Ladson Jr., Joseph Ngata and Brannon Spector are now participating in fall camp with the Tigers for the first time.
Co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott was pleased with what he saw from the freshmen trio on the first day of camp Friday.
Ladson (6-4, 198), a former five-star prospect, begins fall camp as the backup to Tee Higgins at the 9-man receiver position, while Ngata (6-4, 218), another former five-star, is backing up Justyn Ross at the 2-man, and Spector (6-1, 197) is playing multiple spots.
“Spector is a guy that we’re kind of moving around a little bit,” Scott said. “He played a lot of 5 in the spring, and we’re letting him get some work at 9-man and the boundary. He’s going to be a big, strong guy, and he really looked good today for his first day there in the boundary.
“And Frank and Joe, they don’t look like true freshmen. I have to remind myself that this is their first fall camp, and they look like they’ve been here for a year and they just fit right in and did a great job today.”
Scott is excited about the blend of young talent and veteran leadership that his receiving corps features, with guys like senior Diondre Overton, redshirt juniors Cornell Powell and T.J. Chase, and the junior Higgins there to help the freshmen wideouts learn and get better.
“That’s one thing that’s fun as a coach,” Scott said. “You’ve got some older guys that have been here, then you’ve got some younger guys, and those older guys are pulling those younger guys up. You’ve got one-on-one, there’s plays all over the place, and it’ll be fun to watch those guys in fall camp, how they improve.”
A year after seeing Justyn Ross blossom into a star receiver as a true freshman and play a key role in helping the Tigers win the national title, quarterback Trevor Lawrence has a feeling that he will be able to count on the newcomers Ladson, Ngata and Spector this season, thanks in part to the head start they got by enrolling early at Clemson in January and going through spring practice.
“They came in in the spring, so they’ve had a whole semester and a spring practice to kind of get under their belt and learn the system and get acclimated here,” Lawrence said. “Justyn came in in the summer, and it was kind of amazing how quick he got used to everything and learned the playbook. That was really impressive. So, it’s just kind of different. But all three of those guys are great players and they’re going to help us out a lot this year.”
Ladson, Ngata and Spector are off to a good start in fall camp, though Scott knows there is a long way to go before the Tigers wrap up preseason practice and kick off the 2019 season against Georgia Tech in Death Valley on Aug. 29.
“Fall camp is different than spring ball,” Scott said. “Spring ball, you get a day off in between. Fall camp, it’s a grind. It’s 27 days. You’ve got to take care of your body, and there’s some maturity that comes with that. But that’s really what fall camp is all about, is kind of developing that mental toughness, taking care of your body and understanding that you’re going to have to play when you’re sore and all those things. So, we’ll see how they handle that. But I expect them to do well with that.”