When Clemson kicks off the 2021 season against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, there will be a familiar face wearing a Bulldogs’ uniform.
Former Tiger cornerback Derion Kendrick will be wearing the red and black after transferring to Georgia on June 1. Kenrick was dismissed from the Clemson team on Feb. 28 after failing to properly communicate with the Clemson coaching staff on why he was missing classes and practice. It was not the first time Kendrick found himself in the coaches’ doghouse.
Kendrick, a two-year starter at Clemson, brings a ton of experience to a Georgia secondary that has just one starter returning.
“He is a great player, so it is a tough challenge because he is another great one,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said at the ACC Football Kickoff this past Thursday from the Westin in Charlotte. “I love DK. I am pulling for him. As I said the other day, I hope he has a great year. Hopefully, he will have a whole great season, except for one game.”
In 2020, Kendrick (6-0, 190) had one interception to go with a team-high six passes defended on his way to earning First-Team All-ACC honors. He also returned a fumble 66 yards for a touchdown in the Tigers’ win at Virginia Tech to close the regular season.
The Rock Hill, S.C., native finished the year with 17 tackles, including one sack. He played in nine of the Tigers’ 12 games. Kendrick was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2019, as he was credited with 51 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions.
“DK is a young man that I love deeply. Sometimes, you know, there has to be a change for both sides,” Swinney said. “I don’t know if anyone (here) has ever been divorced or anything like that, but sometimes, you know, it is just best to go a different path. But I am happy he is at a good place. It is a great program. He will be well coached there, and I just want to see him finish well.”
On July 10, Kendrick received good news when he found out he will no longer face gun and marijuana charges stemming from an arrest back in his hometown this past March. He participated in an intervention program in his hometown through the York County (SC) Criminal Court, which led to those charges being expunged from his record.
Swinney feels, because of the transfer portal and the rules that are in place, it is going to become more and more common for a player to face his former team in college football.
This is not the first time Clemson has faced a former player. In 2019, running back Tavien Feaster transferred to rival South Carolina. The Tigers beat up on Feaster and the Gamecocks in the season-finale that year, 38-3.
“You will see more and more of this with the transfer portal the way it is. It is no different than the NFL,” Swinney said. “Tom Brady has to play the Patriots this year. So, hopefully, DK does not have quite the intel that Tom Brady has, but I am sure his familiarity is a plus for him. But we are familiar with him, too.”