Frank Ladson Jr. missed a chunk of fall camp with a knee injury and had to undergo a minor procedure. So, the freshman wide receiver wasn’t sure if he would be able to return for top-ranked Clemson’s season opener Thursday night against Georgia Tech.
Not only did Ladson see action in the Tigers’ 52-14 victory, but he showed out in front of 79,000-plus fans in Death Valley with a 21-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
“It felt great, especially coming back after missing most of fall camp with my knee and everything,” Ladson said after the game. “But it felt good just to be out there with my team, and the guys have been encouraging me all fall. So, it felt great.”
Ladson recovered from his knee issue sooner than Clemson’s staff initially expected. The former five-star prospect was highly motivated to get back on the field and did not want to miss the first regular season game of his Tiger career.
“I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t (be back), but I was determined to come back,” Ladson said. “I was ready to play in the opener.”
Ladson’s touchdown catch came on the first play of the final period, capping a seven-play, 67-yard drive that put the Tigers up 49-7 at the time.
Co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott had been harping leading up to the game about taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
That is exactly what Ladson did when he beat Jackets corner Tre Swilling on a vertical route near the sideline and hauled in a perfect throw from backup quarterback Chase Brice.
“We had come off a timeout, and we had just been running the ball straight down the field,” Ladson said. “Coach (Dabo) Swinney, Coach Scott and Coach (Tony) Elliott said we were going to take a shot. It was my opportunity.
“Coach Scott has been preaching all week, when you get your opportunity make the most of it. So, that’s what I did, and I’ve just got to thank Chase for throwing a great ball and the offensive line for giving him time.”
Ladson hopes to build off the confidence he gained in the opener heading into the Tigers’ game against No. 12 Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Death Valley.
“I’m real excited,” he said. “I’m just ready to prepare for it, and I know our coaches are going to have us ready Saturday.”
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