Clemson receiver Diondre Overton was at a crossroads this spring.
The former four-star recruit out of Greensboro, North Carolina, could either finish out the spring and transfer to another program that wasn’t as loaded at receiver Or he could stick it out at Clemson and try to make his senior season with the Tigers his best yet.
Overton considered being a grad transfer and playing elsewhere for his final year of eligibility. Instead, he looked in the mirror and decided that to live up to his potential, it was up to him to change.
“There was a point in time I was getting a little frustrated, kind of sitting on the back end. But I talked to my parents, kept the faith and realized this is where I wanted to be,” Overton said. “I was ready to take the next step and step up and showcase my talents.”
The North Carolina native flashed last year, catching 14 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, including a key touchdown reception in Clemson’s victory over Texas A&M in Week 2.
But he didn’t exactly make a name for himself as one of the better receivers on Clemson’s roster. Once he decided he was going to stick it out with the Tigers, he got to work.
The coaching staff challenged Overton to get stronger over the summer, and he gained eight pounds while also becoming a better all-around football player.
“I worked on my route running, had to get a little faster being that I had to be in the slot. So I had to just work on my craft and start making it more serious,” Overton said. “This is definitely a money year. This is my last year. I didn’t redshirt my freshman year, so it’s all business from here on out. Gotta treat it like business and have the right mindset.”
When starting slot receiver Amari Rodgers went down with an injury in the spring, it opened a door for someone else to step into the starting lineup alongside Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins.
Overton appears to be the guy ready to fill in for Rodgers thanks to a strong spring, summer and start to fall camp.
“He’s been great. I’m super proud of him,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s become one of our best leaders, incredibly committed to this program. And, you know, we’ve moved him over to the slot and I’m telling you, he’s loving it. He’s having a ball.
“He’s a very intelligent player, and he’s just so much stronger. He’s done an awesome job with his body. And he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
At 6-foot-4, Overton isn’t your typical slot receiver.
Clemson’s last two slot receivers were Hunter Renfrow and Adam Humphries, both under 6 feet. And the 5-foot-10 Rodgers was slated to start in the slot in 2019 before tearing his ACL this spring.
But Overton being 6-foot-4 isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly when you can pair him with two other 6-foot-4 receivers in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
“Diondre actually brings some things maybe that those (previous slot receivers) didn’t have with his height,” receivers coach Jeff Scott said. “You think about a lineup with Tee and Diondre and Ross out there, those are three big guys. I think that’s the thing we’re excited about with him is on those corner balls and maybe some of those vertical balls down the middle and dig cuts and all of that, he gives you a big body.”
Overton knows all three of Clemson’s receiver positions. Even when Rodgers comes back, he still has a chance to be a big part of Clemson’s offense in 2019.
“Last year he did a lot of good things, and I’m glad he’s finally getting an opportunity to play a little bit more,” Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “He’s worked really hard. He’s a team guy. He stuck it out all four years, hasn’t gotten to play a ton and get the reps that he might get some other places. But he’s stuck it out and came to work every day.
“He’s getting to reap some of those benefits now. He’s going to help us out a lot this year.”