This concludes our series in which we picked the best players from Clemson’s Modern Era (1990-present). This is the era following the Tigers’ great teams of the Danny Ford and Charlie Pell era. Some of the players on this list might be considered among Clemson’s all-time greats and you are sure to recognize a few, if not all, of the names on our list.
We conclude our series today by looking at the specialist on Clemson’s All-Modern Era Team. In the modern era of college football, kickoff and punt specialist have become a position of its own, especially at Clemson where guys like C.J. Spiller and Justin Miller became two of the best the sport has ever seen.
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C.J. Spiller (2006-’09): Remember the start of the 2009 football season? Spiller took the opening kickoff against Middle Tennessee and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. It began the greatest individual season in Clemson history. Not only was Spiller an All-American running back, but he was an All-American kick returner as well. He is arguably the greatest kick returner in the history of college football. He returned seven kickoffs for a touchdown in his career, an NCAA record. He also tied the NCAA record for career touchdown returns (punts and kickoffs) with eight. He holds the Clemson record for kickoff return yards (2,052) and his 27.7-yard average ranks second all-time. Spiller ranks sixth all-time in punt return yards at Clemson, and his 10.7-yard career average is the third best among those top 10 punt returners of all-time. He averaged 26.9 yards in 2009 on eight punt returns, second best in Clemson history. Spiller joined Reggie Bush as the only players in college football history to record 3,000 rushing yards, 1,500 kickoff return yards, 1,000 receiving yards and 500 yards in punt returns. Spiller’s 7,588 all-purpose yards are not only a Clemson record, but it’s also an ACC record and ranks second all-time in NCAA history.
Justin Miller (2002-’04): Miller set the NCAA single-game record for kickoff return yards with 282 yards at Florida State in 2004. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns to tie an NCAA record that day, while also setting a Clemson record. He was literally a shoe-string tackle away from returning a third touchdown for a score against the Seminoles that afternoon. Though Spiller holds most of the return records, Miller holds the record for career average with an impressive 30.7 yards per return average. He returned three kicks for touchdowns overall in his career, which is second to Spiller. Miller averaged 35.1 yards per kick return in 2002 to set a Clemson record and his 33.1 yards per return average in 2004, ranks third all-time. He is the only player in Clemson history to have two of the top 10 averages. Miller averaged 13.0 yards on punt returns in 2004 and his 339 yards that season ranks sixth all-time for a single season.
Derrick Hamilton (2001-’03): When he left Clemson in 2003, Derrick Hamilton was the most dynamic player Clemson had ever had. He left as the all-time career leader in all-purpose yards (4,839) and kickoff return yards (1,552); was fourth all-time in receiving yards (2,312) and fifth all-time in punt return yards (618). Today he still ranks fifth all-time in punt return yards, while his receiving yards ranks seventh all-time. As a kick returner, only Spiller has topped his mark, and he is third behind Spiller and Sammy Watkins in all-purpose yards. Hamilton’s 34.5-yards per kickoff return average in 2003 ranks second in Clemson history all-time, and his 696 yards in 2002 ranks third all-time. He also totaled 377 yards in punt returns in 2002, which ranks third on the all-time list.