CLEMSON — Joseph Ngata has all the tools any coaching staff could want in a receiver.
The California native stands at an imposing 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. The former top-75 prospect was a major recruiting win for the Tigers who has shown flashes in his first two seasons on campus. With 24 receptions for 323 yards and three touchdowns in his career, Ngata passes the look test.
Clemson is entering a 2021 season with some questions to answer on the perimeter. Both Cornell Powell and Amari Rodges are off to the NFL after combining to record 130 receptions and 14 touchdowns in 2020. However, offensive coordinator Tony Elliott likes what is available in the wide receiver room.
“You look at what we were able to accomplish last year and you tip your hat to Cornell and Amari for carrying the load, but you got Ngata, you got [Frank] Ladson, you got the potential of [Justyn] Ross coming back. That’s a ton of depth; all those guys have played,” said Elliott on Packer and Durham. “They’re experienced.”
Ross, of course, is the headliner who was just named a preseason first-team All-American. Ladson is another junior and former top-shelf recruit looking to contribute at one of the outside receiver positions. However, Ngata brings something very unique to the table and the coaches love what the junior has shown.
“This kid is incredibly gifted,” said head coach Dabo Swinney. “He’s still getting 100 percent, but he’s been out there competing”.
The receiver suffered from an abdominal injury in 2020 that kept Ngata at bay for most of the season. The blue-chipper played just seven games while recording seven catches for 83 yards last fall. Now that Ngata is healthy, the veteran is pushing for a spot at boundary receiver.
Also known as the X receiver position, this spot traditionally lines up away from the tight end to the weak side of the formation. This is a player that will align on the line of scrimmage and will not be used in pre-snap motions. The wideout needs speed to get down the sideline to go along with release ability and strength to be able to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage. These players need to be quick, physical, and fast.
Elliott thinks Ross could play there and other spots, but Ngata may just be the guy for the offense.
“Don’t forget about Joseph Ngata,” said Elliott. “We didn’t see him much last year because of injuries, but he’s that big body that we’re used to seeing into the boundary.”
That big body receiver could become an outside playmaker for the Tigers in 2021.