Last year was not an easy year for Joseph Ngata.
The Folsom, Calif., native was supposed to have a breakout season in 2021, but it never happened.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney raved about Ngata prior to the start of last season, saying he was the one wide receiver he was so excited to see play. However, due to an abdomen injury in the season opener at Wake Forest, Ngata never got the opportunity to showcase why his head coach was so excited to see him play.
“Unfortunately, we never got to see what we saw in camp,” Swinney said this past spring.
The injury forced the 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver in and out of the lineup all season. Eventually, he had surgery to fix the issue and he missed the last five games of the season.
“This kid is incredibly gifted,” Swinney said. “He is still getting (healthy). I still don’t think he is quite hundred percent. But he is still out there competing. He has had a great spring.”
Ngata completed the spring by catching six passes for 83 yards in the Orange & White Spring Game, including a 49-yard catch from quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to set up a 24-yard B.T. Potter field goal in the third quarter after he went over the back of the defender and took the ball away.
“It is just really having a great summer and getting his body right where it needs to be,” Swinney said. “Continuing to really work on his rehab and his prehab and his recovery and all of that type of stuff. And then just being available. That is really it.”
Swinney believes Ngata will make a million plays if he is healthy.
“That is really the only thing that has held him back,” the Clemson coach said. “He had a great freshman year. But last year, he was really just unavailable. He tried to play several times and was not anywhere near a hundred percent and still did some things. He is really his only limit and catching some breaks from a health standpoint.
“He had a good spring for us, now we need him to grind this summer and go lead and go challenge all of those guys.”
Swinney feels he needs Ngata, along with Justyn Ross and Frank Ladson, to go and lead a wide receiving corps that has an opportunity to be one of the best groups in the country.
“Those three guys have to lead the way for this group,” he said.
Clemson will kick off the 2021 season on Sept. 4 in Charlotte when it plays Georgia at Bank of America Stadium.