Breakout performance provides confidence boost for Ladson

Breakout performance provides confidence boost for Ladson

Football

Breakout performance provides confidence boost for Ladson

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Sophomore wide receiver Frank Ladson Jr. had far and away the finest performance of his young career at Clemson on Saturday in the No. 1 Tigers’ 49-0 victory over The Citadel at Death Valley.

Entering the contest, Ladson had a total of 149 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 16 career games dating to the start of his freshman season in 2019.

On Saturday, Ladson recorded 87 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three catches in just two quarters of action, reminding everyone why he was considered one of the top receiver prospects in the country coming out of South Dade Senior High School in Miami.

“Huge for him because he’s a guy that we know is very talented, just needs opportunities and through those opportunities to develop consistently, and I think that’s going to help his confidence,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “So, it was good for him to come out and make some plays.”

Ladson got the scoring started when he snagged a 17-yard pass from Trevor Lawrence in the end zone less than three minutes into the game, then added his second touchdown on a 54-yard reception from Lawrence on a slant-and-go route to make the score 42-0 with 9:55 left in the second quarter.

“I feel like it definitely builds my confidence up,” Ladson said of his breakout performance, “but I go to practice every day. We [he and Lawrence] practice every day together, and my confidence was already there, it’s just great to do it come game time. It was great to just get that out there.”

Ladson missed a lot of time in fall camp as he went through COVID-19 safety protocols, but he and Lawrence were able to continue building a rapport while working out together over the offseason, and it showed on Saturday in a big way.

“Just a great player — big playmaker, can really come in the game wherever, a couple different positions,” Lawrence said of Ladson. “He’s versatile, and that’s helped us a lot being able to insert him at a few different places. And then when he’s in there, he’s flashy. He can run like you saw today, he just runs past people. Also, other than that, he’s just smart. I think it says a lot when you can put a guy like that and move him around because that means he knows the whole offense, he knows every position.

“So, I’ve been really impressed with just his knowledge of the game and how well he’s handled everything.”

The biggest differences in Ladson now compared to when he arrived on campus in January 2019 is his size at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, his confidence and the speed at which he is playing at on the field, according to head coach Dabo Swinney.

“He’s completely transformed his body in a year,” Swinney said. “If you really go back and look at him when he first got here to where he is now physically, it’s just night and day. He has really developed from a physical standpoint. He’s incredibly fast, but he’s playing fast. He didn’t always play fast as a freshman learning. He’s playing fast now, and just more confidence.”

Elliott expects Saturday’s game to give Ladson something to build upon moving forward as Clemson looks for him and fellow sophomore Joseph Ngata to establish themselves as a dynamic duo at wideout that the Tigers can depend on with Tee Higgins now in the NFL and Justyn Ross out for the season.

“It’s going to be huge,” Elliott said. “He’s a guy that we had high expectations for, and unfortunately he was hit with the protocol situation during camp and missed some reps. But it’s good to see him going because that gives us a lot of flexibility when you’ve got him and Joe into the boundary or you can get him and Joe on the field at the same time.”

— Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference 

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