During the 2019 season, freshmen Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson showed a lot of promise for the future at wide receiver. Though both Clemson receivers are alike in a lot of ways, they are also very different.
Ngata is built a lot like Mike Williams and Tee Higgins. He is already physically ahead of both of them. He came to Clemson with a body type that looked like an NFL ready receiver. However, he also has the ability to get open and he has the explosiveness of a Sammy Watkins when he gets the ball in his hands.
Ladson is built like Deandre Hopkins, Higgins and Watkins, he still has to grow into his body, but he has the speed to separate like Watkins in the open field and the hands of Hopkins. Though not physically as ready as Ngata, Ladson has the skill set to be every bit as good as a Higgins or Williams when his Clemson career is all said and done.
The talents of both of these receivers will make for an interesting competition battle in the spring on the field side.
Here is a look at Clemson’s depth chart at the field position heading into spring practice (note: these are players who are currently enrolled in school and on the active roster).
Joseph Ngata, So., 6-3, 215: Ngata was officially listed as Tee Higgins backup in 2019 and he will spend half of his time at the boundary this spring as well. But he likely will have a chance to win the job on the field side as he battles Frank Ladson for the starting spot. Last season, the rising sophomore caught 17 passes for 240 yards and three receiving touchdowns while playing in all 15 games. He caught his first career touchdown pass vs. Charlotte, catching a 37-yard score from Chase Brice while leading Clemson in receptions (three) and receiving yards (62) that evening at Death Valley. He also caught touchdown passes against Louisville and Wake Forest.
Frank Ladson, So., 6-3, 195: Will challenge Ngata for the starting position on the field side. He was the backup to Justyn Ross last year on the field side. Ladson enters 2020 having caught nine passes for 128 yards with three touchdowns while playing in 15 games. He made his collegiate debut against Georgia Tech, catching a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chase Brice on his first career reception. He recorded a highlight reel 7-yard touchdown catch at Syracuse as well.
Justyn Ross, Jr., 6-4, 216: Ross was an Honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2019 after he recorded 865 yards and eight touchdowns and led the Tigers with 66 receptions through 14 games. Ross played most of this time on the field side for the Tigers. He can also play the slot position as well. Ross enters 2020 having recorded 112 catches for 1,865 yards with 17 touchdowns while playing in 29 career games, including 14 starts. He had a remarkable true freshman campaign in 2018 in which he caught 46 passes for a team-leading 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns. On the game’s biggest stages as a freshman, he caught six passes for 148 yards with two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl and six passes for 153 yards with one touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship. He again led the Tigers in the CFP this past season, hauling in 11 more passes for 122 yards in the two games. He has 23 career catches in the CFP for 423 yards and three touchdowns.
Cornell Powell, *Sr., 6-0, 210: Powell has 40 career catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns. He has played in 42 games in his Clemson career to this point. Last year, he caught 15 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. Powell is a versatile player who will battle at all three wide receiver positions in the spring.
E.J. Williams, Fr., 6-3, 190: An early enrollee, Williams is expected to compete at both boundary and on the field side in the spring, but his future home is likely at the boundary. Williams will fit right in as another big, long and athletic playmaker. He was one of two receivers the Tigers signed in their 2020 class, along with Ajou Ajou. While Ajou will enroll in June, Williams was a midyear enrollee and thus was able to participate in a couple of Clemson’s on-campus bowl practices in January. Getting in Clemson’s strength and conditioning program should help Williams add more muscle and bulk to his lean frame.
—Gavin Oliver contributed this story
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