In his first year as a starter, the Rock Hill native became an All-ACC corner
In the spring of 2019, Clemson found itself in a little bit of a predicament.
Several of its cornerbacks suffered some sort of a nagging injury and were unable to practice. It got so bad, Dabo Swinney reached over to his group of wide receivers and pulled Derion Kenrick to the defensive side of the ball.
Kendrick’s journey over to the defense was supposed to be experimental. He was supposed to be an extra body to help with practice and scrimmages. However, it became pretty obvious early on Kendrick was a natural at cornerback.
When the Tigers got back from spring break, Kendrick was working with the first team and when the spring ended, he was penciled in as the starting cornerback opposite A.J. Terrell.
Kendrick continued his ascent at corner once the season started. He finished the year with 51 tackles, including three tackles for loss. He broke up six passes and had two interceptions.
On his first career interception, Kendrick picked off a pass against Florida State and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. The Rock Hill, S.C., native also intercepted a pass against rival South Carolina on the opening drive of the game.
At the end of the year, the first-year starter, who never played the cornerback position prior to 2019, was named a second team All-ACC performer. Not bad for a guy who nine months earlier was playing wide receiver.
In the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, Kendrick posted a career-high nine tackles and broke up two passes in helping the Tigers rally for a 29-23 victory.
Prior to the national championship game, opponents completed less than 50 percent of their passes against the 6-foot, 190-pound corner and he did not give up a touchdown.
So, what does Kendrick do for an encore?
He is now the unquestionable leader of the corners, though he and Mario Goodrich came to Clemson together. He missed the majority of Clemson’s nine spring practices due to a hamstring injury.
However, cornerbacks coach Mike Reed knows what he is going to get out of his top cornerback. Now the question is, can Kendrick take it to the next level?
Can he go from All-ACC to All-American? He is likely going to be an All-American candidate. However, he did struggle at times against LSU in the national championship game and opponents are going to use that film to see what LSU did to finally get to Kendrick.
How will Kendrick respond? He is ready to show that the LSU game was a blip on the radar in what could possibly be an All-American career at Clemson.
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