After the Tigers won a fierce in-state recruiting battle with South Carolina, Lamar, S.C. native Mike Hamlin arrived at Clemson last summer as one of the top defensive back recruits in the southeast.
And he was ready to play.
The only problem was, he never saw the field once during his freshman year.
Hamlin, like several other of his freshmen defensive backs, needed a year to adjust to the college game, not to mention a year to develop in the weight room. In addition, after the conclusion of the 2004 season, Hamlin had another adjustment to make: a coaching change.
Vic Koenning was brought in to serve as the new defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, replacing John Lovett, who served in the same capacity during Hamlin's freshman year.
"That's probably been the biggest thing for me was having to learn all the new terminology this spring," Hamlin said. "It's been kind of crazy, being in meetings all the time and learning how Coach Vic wants us to do things.
"When it first started off, things were kind of rough. I wasn't really sure of myself. It just took a while to start playing again without having to think about everything on every play."
Fortunately for Hamlin, as spring practice wore on, he started to grasp Koenning's style, and his scheme, with much more authority.
And after showing steady improvement through the second half of spring practice, Hamlin was one of the regular names called out by Tommy Bowden during his regular post-practice interviews with the media.
"Mike Hamlin continues to do well for us," Bowden said just before the spring game. "You've got Hamlin, Chris Clemons and some of the other young guys starting to make a move. I've been pleased with the young guys in the secondary."
"I think things started coming together for me more," said Hamlin. "And that just allows you to play harder, and be more comfortable out there."
With spring practice behind now him, Hamlin has another hurdle to clear before he makes an impact on the field: the depth chart.
Hamlin is currently listed as a second team cat safety behind another younger player, C.J. Gaddis.
"I feel like this will be a year that I break through and get some snaps and show everybody what I can do," Hamlin said.
And it's not just Hamlin that's ready to see the field. There are a whole host of redshirt freshmen in the secondary that appear to be ready to play: Hamlin, Clemons, and Brandon Croley.
"We all redshirted last year and we just kept telling ourselves that we are going to be number one in the nation by the time we are seniors," said Hamlin. "I think we'll do pretty good together once we get out there.
"It's just all about learning everything and making plays. They've been doing that as well as everybody."
Hamlin Ready for Next Step
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