Swinney explains why they moved their star receiver to the slot
Clemson fans will remember this name … Derrick Hamilton, a.k.a. “Noodle.”
Hamilton was one of the most dynamic wide receivers in Clemson history. In just three years, he finished his career as the all-time leader in receptions (167), second in touchdown receptions (16) and fourth in receiving yards (2,312). He still ranks in the top 10 in all three categories.
The Tigers also used Hamilton as a kick and punt returner. In 2003, his final year at Clemson, he averaged 34.5 yards on 11 kick returns, including a 100-yard touchdown. He also had a 79-yard punt return in 2002 and a 58-yard return in 2003.
As a runner, he had runs of 52 and 49 yards.
Former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden gave him his nickname, “Noodle,” because he was so quick and explosive in and out his breaks and could change direction in a blink of an eye.
Hamilton is who Dabo Swinney sees when he watches Justyn Ross play, one reason why the Tigers have moved the All-American caliber player into the slot position this spring.
“I coached Derrick when I first got here. Derrick was very unique. I only had a year. I wish had him again,” Clemson’s head coach said. “But he was very unique with his size, but his ability to change direction, his lateral quickness and explosiveness in and out of cuts, that is one of Justyn’s gifts. He is so gifted. He is [Hunter] Renfrow-esque when it comes to his lateral ability.
“When you are in the slot, it is a quick change of direction and then you get a big body like that … he is unique.”
A 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, Ross is a little bigger than Hamilton was, which makes him even more dynamic in the slot position because he can do everything else Hamilton could.
“Justyn is a threat anywhere. We have left him at positions, but we have formation him all over when we have had him.” Swinney said. “He has made plays in the boundary. He has made plays in the field. He has made plays in the slot since he has been here. But we have never just played him at the five-man (slot) and asked him to really learn that.
“That is kind of one of the things that make him unique.”
With Ross now back in the fold and being able to threaten defenses, the Tigers have one of the best and deepest wide receiving corps in the country. Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson are both back in the mix after injury riddled seasons in 2020, while E.J. Williams emerged as a big-play threat in 2020 and Baylon Spector continues to make progress, as well.
“(Ross) can play any position. You have Ngata. You have Frank. You got E.J., you got Justyn and Spec, that is kind of our top five guys right there,” Swinney said. “All of those guys bring a lot of versatility, but at the end of the day we want to get the best three on the field. So, it will be a great opportunity and a great move for Justyn and his future as well because he is one of those rare guys with size that can be elite at any position.”
For the record, Hamilton hated the nickname, “Noodle.”
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