Expectations High for Derrick Hamilton

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Head coach Tommy Bowden wants to see more consistency. Derrick Hamilton reminds everyone that he was injured.

Whatever the reasoning, the 2002 football season didn't go exactly as many had hoped for Hamilton individually, or Clemson as a team. But maybe it's only because expectations surrounding the redshirt junior from Dillon are so high that last season was considered a disappointment.

Give most players Hamilton's numbers, and they'd be making noise about leaving for the NFL:

- He led the ACC in all-purpose yards, becoming the first league champion from Clemson in that category since 1997 when Tony Horne won the title;

- He averaged 144.8 yards per game, just ahead of Fabian Davis of Wake Forest, and was second in Clemson history behind the 148-yard figure by Tony Horne in 1997;

- Hamilton had 1,883 all-purpose yards for the season, an all-time Clemson single-season record and an ACC record for a sophomore;

- He had 231 all-purpose yards in the Tangerine Bowl, an all-time Clemson record for a bowl game.

Yet midway through fall camp this year, Hamilton was sharing reps at his wide receiver slot with Airese Currie. On more than one occasion, Bowden said Currie had moved ahead of Hamilton "just a little bit."

So what gives?

"He's a great athlete, he just needs to learn to be more consistent in his play," Bowden said. "The effort isn't consistent. Not that he's lazy or anything like that. But there's a level you have to achieve, and he may get there two days then fall short one. I'd like him to be at that level every day."

Hamilton, though, remains unflappable.

The soft-spoken receiver insists he's ready for a big season, while at the same time refusing to put specific numbers on his expectations. All he really wants is a pain-free season, something he didn't have with his bothersome ankle a year ago.

Give him that, and Hamilton will be happy.

"Last year I was injured pretty much the whole season, so that kind of hindered me," he said. "This year I'm looking to be healthier and do better things as a team, really, than last year. I sat out first summer to kind of relax, get my mind off football.

The second summer session I came back and jumped right into workouts, heat, running - preparing for the season."

Hamilton's low-key approach can sometimes lead him to make the occasional understatement.

Witness his thoughts on Clemson's kickoff return team:

"It's going to be me and a couple of other guys. Me and (Justin) Miller will split time. I'm not the only one who can do it. There are a couple of other players who have the same ability as me as a return man."

What Hamilton won't say is that he and Miller may be the best return tandem in the country.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that Hamilton places no special interest on the Georgia game, nor adheres to the notion that this should be a breakout season for him.

"I just want to do the best that I can," he said. "When we win, that pretty much takes care of everything. I just want to win."

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