After showing promise and flashing their potential as true freshmen a year ago, Clemson wide receivers Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata haven’t had the type of sophomore seasons that they and the coaches had hoped for to this point.
Ladson and Ngata, a pair of former highly touted prospects coming out of high school, have had a hard time staying on the field over the course of this season while battling nagging injuries.
However, offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and the Tigers are still hopeful the talented duo can get healthy and be productive contributors offensively down the stretch of the campaign.
“Definitely hope so,” Elliott said this week. “Those are two guys coming into the season that we were very high on, had great expectations for.”
Ngata notched 17 receptions for 240 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman last season, while Ladson caught nine passes for 128 yards and three scores in his first year with the Tigers in 2019. So far this season, Ngata has appeared in seven games but has only seven receptions for 83 yards. Ladson on the other hand has been productive when healthy, catching 17 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns.
Both Ladson and Ngata played in all 15 of Clemson’s games last season. This season, though, Ngata has missed a game and played only five snaps in two others while dealing with an abdominal strain. Ladson, meanwhile, hurt his hip in practice leading up to the Boston College game and saw only special teams action in that contest before playing just six snaps and injuring a foot at Notre Dame.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Monday on his radio call-in show that Ladson’s foot injury will likely keep him out for another couple of weeks.
“It has been a crazy year,” Swinney said. “You lose Justyn Ross (spinal surgery), and Ngata, I mean we really have only had one healthy game from Ngata and that was (the season opener at) Wake Forest, and it has just been a struggle the rest of the way. He is probably the best receiver we have. It is just so unfortunate that everyone hasn’t been able to see exactly what this kid is capable of. And I love him because he is trying to gut it out and do things, but it has just been a lingering thing. And then Frank has had a couple of setbacks, so he is probably going to be out another couple of weeks.”
Before the season started, both Ladson and Ngata missed a chunk of fall camp while going through COVID-19 protocol, and neither receiver has really been able to get and stay on track this season because of the injuries.
However, while Ladson has been ruled out for Saturday’s game at Florida State, Clemson’s bye week last week came at a good time for Ngata and gave him some extra time to heal up.
“It kind of started in fall camp. They went into protocol, missed some time there, and both of them have been battling some nagging stuff, some nagging injuries, and hopefully this open week right here was an opportunity for them to get back healthy,” Elliott said. “Obviously, Frank’s in a different situation with his foot … But Joe says he feels good, so we’ll just get out there and push those guys. But definitely hope to get those guys back in, get them some action as we go down the stretch.”
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