As Clemson was winding down the first part of spring drills last month, Dabo Swinney noticed all the cornerbacks wearing yellow jerseys.
A yellow jersey signifies when a player is injured and cannot participate in practice.
“I’m watching practice and we got all of these guys hurt and I just said, ‘DK get over there,’” Clemson’s head coach explained recently.
DK is the nickname for sophomore Derion Kendrick, who was playing wide receiver. At the time, the coaches had not spoken about moving Kendrick to cornerback, but they needed bodies on the field in the secondary and Kendrick made sense.
The Rock Hill, S.C., native played the position in high school and was really good. In fact, Clemson recruited him as a cornerback and as a wide receiver coming out of high school.
The only problem was Kendrick did not know the defense’s terminology, but Swinney fixed that. He told graduate assistant coach Xavier Brewer to help Kendrick with the play calls and to tell him what coverages he needed to get in.
“He understands ball,” Swinney said. “It was just (snapping his fingers) like a fish to water. It was just natural.”
In deed it was. The next day, in Clemson’s first scrimmage of the spring, Kendrick intercepted a Trevor Lawrence pass and then proceeded to make several tackles after that as the defense owned the day.
From there, Kendrick never went back to the offense with an exception of a few plays here and there.
“He has had an awesome spring. We did not go into the spring to just put him over there,” Swinney said.
“We flipped him some and I really think he is a guy that will play both positions as goes through his career regardless of what ends up being his home,” the Clemson coach continued. “But right now, he is our best corner outside of A.J. (Terrell) and he has earned it. He has taken advantage of the opportunity.”
It helped that Clemson has a lot of depth at wide receiver and some flexibility to be able to move some guys.
“Right now, he loves it. He is having a ball,” Swinney said.