CLEMSON— The Clemson Tigers have had a long run of success in persuading some of the most talented wide receivers in the country to come and be a part of WRU—or Wide Receiver University…the name given by the Tigers’ coaching staff.
After plucking up a true freshman wide receiver last season from Phenix City, Alabama named Justyn Ross—who subsequently had a coming out party in 2018, as he amassed a team-leading 1,000 yards on 46 receptions and nine touchdowns.
So, after plucking the No. 1 receiver from the backyard of national championship rival the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Tigers decided to get even greedier this season—going into the state of Florida and getting 6-foot-3, 197-pound, five-star phenom Frank Ladson; and went to California and got fellow five-star, 6-foot-3, 205-pound Joe Ngata.
But the Tigers have an additional benefit, these two five-stars have gone through spring camp—unlike Ross last season.
“They are really talented,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They are exactly what we thought they would be.
“All three of those guys are exactly what we expected them to be as far as natural ball skills, explosive. We have great size in that group. Exciting young talent for sure.”they still have stuff to work on, but those guys are going to have to develop.”
The Tigers do, in fact, have plenty of size in the wide receiver room with the like of Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, Derion Kendrick, Diondre Overton and Cornell Powell joining Ross and the two freshmen.
And even those veteran receivers have already seen the talent of the the true freshmen.
“Those guys can play. They came in as freaks, obviously they still have stuff to work on, but those guys are going to have to develop,” Higgins said.
But even though the Tigers already have arguably the deepest receiving corp in all of college football, the two freshmen have already caught the eyes of their position coach Jeff Scott—who believes that Ladson reminds him of another big-time wide receiver recruit from the state of Florida, Sammy Watkins.
“Really pleased with all of them. I knew a little bit more about Frank because I had him in camp and got to see him,” Scott said. “I think the biggest thing about Frank that I'm pleased with is he came in at 182 and today he weighed 197, so he's gained 15 pounds in two months. I could see that in him. He's stronger out here. He's special. His speed, acceleration, quickness reminds me of another number two we had from Florida, so that's a pretty strong statement there.
“Then, Joe Ngata is big, strong, explosive. He's made a bunch of plays. He's a hard worker, very serious about his business, loves it. Those two guys are roommates and two of the best young guys we've had come in,” he said.
The Tigers recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter, believes that the Tigers ability to go to Florida and, more importantly California, is a testament to the brand the Tigers have built.
“It just shows that our brand is getting stronger and stronger,” said quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter. “Getting the No. 1 guy in six different states (in the 2018), I don’t know if anybody else can say that, but that’s strong ... it’s exciting. Really is. Fired up about it.”
One additional reason that the Tigers’ coaching staff is “fired up” with their recruiting is the added depth that their recruiting has provided them—especially with a devastating injury to starting slot receiver Amari Rodgers, who suffered a torn ACL in practice a week ago.
However, Swinney believes that Rodgers will still be able to contribute this season, even as early as the first week of the season. A feat which would be remarkable—but not entirely out of the norm if you look at past history, when you look at the 2014 season.
In the spring of 2014, the Tigers lost quarterback Chad Kelly and tight end Sam Cooper to ACL injuries and both players returned for the season-opener against Georgia..
“I think that spring game was later, maybe the second week of April, and they played against Georgia, like August 31, if I remember correctly,” Swinney said. “Everybody responds differently to those types of injuries. But it really comes down to the person and how they react to rehab. Amari doesn’t do anything halfway.
“He will be back. It’s part of his journey and he will embrace it. We will see where he is in fall camp. We won’t rush him back, but he will do everything he can to get ready.”
The good news for the Tigers is that there is no rush on Rodgers because of the talented receivers they have waiting in the wings.
“We are not going to rush him back or anything. Whenever he is ready, they will put him back in there,” Swinney said. “He will do everything he can to get back as soon as possible.”