Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked following Monday’s practice if there were any true freshmen players that would definitely avoid a redshirt in 2019.
“Ngata, for sure,” Swinney said, referring to Clemson freshman wideout Joseph Ngata. “Fo sho.”
Clemson has produced its share of star receivers under co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott.
The Tigers have had eight receivers selected in the NFL draft in the past seven years, including first-round picks DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams.
Clemson has a pair of receivers on its current roster in Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins that were ranked by ESPN as two of the top 20 players in college football for 2019. And both of them could be first round picks in the next couple of years. It sounds as if Ngata could follow them when his time comes.
“Special. He’s as hard a worker as I’ve ever been around, senior included. I’ve never had a senior work harder. He is one of the most focused, one of the most committed young people I have ever seen,” Swinney said. “It’s amazing to watch him work. Loves to be coached, loves to learn. He’s a sponge. He loves to soak up knowledge, and then he applies it. He’s special.”
Ngata has been working at both of Clemson’s outside receiver spots and should see plenty of time behind the sophomore Ross and junior Higgins this season.
Ross led the Tigers in receiving yards with 1,000 in 2018, despite arriving on campus last summer. He played sparingly early on in the year as he continued to learn the offense, before starring at the end of the year.
That won’t be a problem for Ngata, who went through the spring with the Tigers and is doing well with the playbook.
“He’s proven he can handle it,” Swinney said. “He’s got a chance to really help us... I saw pretty quick in the spring that this guy is wired unlike your typical freshman, mentally and physically. He’s got a bright, bright future.”
Clemson brands itself as Wide Receiver U, and Ngata could be the next star of the group.
“Them great ones, it don’t take long to see it when they’re ready and ahead of the curve. Really right out of the gate I could tell he was way ahead from your typical freshman progression,” Swinney said. “He’s just one of those guys that can play all three positions, long, technically is very advanced. I mean he’s gonna be a great player.”