CLEMSON, S.C. - The way Clemson wide receiver Derrick Hamilton can slip and slide around would-be tacklers, it's no wonder his teammates call him "Noodle."
After opening his sophomore season with quiet performances against Georgia and Louisiana Tech, the elusive Hamilton slithered his way through the Georgia Tech defense in Clemson's 24-19 victory on Saturday.
With 256 all-purpose yards, highlighted by a 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Hamilton has the Tigers players and coached excited about his big-play potential.
"He really is a special talent," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, whose Tigers (2-1) play Ball State on Saturday in Death Valley. "He's got a very unique running style because he looks like he runs straight up and his body looks like he's got no spine. He just looks like Jell-O."
Battling a high ankle sprain since the preseason, Hamilton went without a catch in the season-opening loss to Georgia, then picked up only 37 yards on four catches against Louisiana Tech.
That wasn't the kind of start he had envisioned after a standout freshman season, in which he led Clemson in receptions with 53, and receiving yards, totaling 684.
"I really wasn't 100 percent so I couldn't really do what I wanted to do until now," said the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Hamilton. "I know I didn't play well against Louisiana Tech, and the Georgia game was bad. But I've got where I needed to be."
Hamilton's big day began with six minutes to go in the first quarter.
He took a handoff from quarterback Willie Simmons on an end around, then danced around several Georgia Tech defenders for the Tigers' first touchdown and a 10-0 lead. The run was the longest from scrimmage by a Clemson player since Derrick Witherspoon's 89-yard run against Maryland in 1993.
Late in the second half, Hamilton struck again for a 79-yard punt return to the Georgia Tech 5-yard line. That set up Simmons' for a 2-yard shotput pass to Bobby Williamson on fourth down for the Tigers' second touchdown.
"It was big for him to step up and have the kind of game he's capable of having," said Simmons, who threw a key block for Hamilton near the goal line on the TD run.
Hamilton's 256 all-purpose yards is the fifth-most in Clemson history, and the performance has Bowden and offensive coordinator Brad Scott trying to figure out a way to get him in position to make more game-breaking plays.
"All of a sudden, that 77 yards registers in the computer, and you've got to try and get him the ball more," Bowden said.
Lining up Hamilton at tailback might seem tempting, but Bowden said that is not an option.
"That'd scare him to death," Bowden said. "He needs green space. He's an aggressive runner who has some toughness and he has great vision. But he's got a little build. He'd get broken in half at tailback."
NO JACKET REQUIRED: When South Carolina coach Lou Holtz appeared last year on Live with Regis and Kelly, Tommy Bowden's wife, Linda, wrote a letter to Regis Philbin asking the TV talk show host to give her husband equal air time.
Now that South Carolina coach Lou Holtz is about to become a member of the Augusta National Golf Club, Bowden was asked Tuesday whether he expects an invitation from Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson. "He (Holtz) has a lot more money than I do, and I think you've got to have that to get in there, I believe," Bowden said with a laugh.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.