"Legit dude." Derion Kendrick finding a home at corner and wide receiver
|Saturday, March 30, 2019, 9:01 AM- -|
CLEMSON – Derion Kendrick is a man of few words, and prefers to let his play do his talking on the field. Lately, he’s let his play talk on both sides of the ball.
Kendrick played on both sides of the ball as an athlete at South Pointe High School, playing quarterback his junior and senior season. He was recruited by Clemson as a wide receiver and logged 283 offensive snaps in 15 games as a freshman in 2018, catching 15 passes for 210 yards.
However, the Tigers are facing depth issues at cornerback after a rash of spring injuries, and the coaches decided to see what Kendrick could do on defense. The results have been promising, and Kendrick told the media Friday that he doesn’t care where he plays.
“I just like helping my team,” Kendrick said. “I just like to win.”
Kendrick said the coaches approached him about the move.
“They were just like ‘we’re going to try you, for right now, and see how you do,’” Kendrick said. “I’ve been looking good, so we don’t know what we’re going to do yet as far as the season.”
Kendrick has been impressive during his short time in the defensive backfield. He isn’t afraid to make a jarring tackle at the line – he even smiled about it when asked Friday – and recorded two tackles and an interception of Trevor Lawrence during the second scrimmage.
His teammates have taken notice.
“He’s gonna help us for sure if we need him,” cornerback Mario Goodrich said. “We probably will need him depending on what takes place. We never know,” Goodrich said. “Anything could happen, but he’ll definitely be able to help us in the secondary.”
Veteran corner AJ Terrell agreed.
“Right now he’s playing off of straight up athleticism. He’s just straight ballin’. He’s just got to learn the playbook some more, get some more coaches’ trust and he’ll be straight,” Terrell said. “It doesn’t look like it’s his first time playing DB. He looks pretty good.”
Kendrick said playing multiple positions at South Pointe have helped in his transition.
“The biggest thing to learn is just the basics of the whole defense,” he said. “That’s it. I really knew everything about corner from high school, so it really comes naturally. Just knowing the game of receiver, it makes it easier on me because I usually know what they’re going to do before they do it. To me, I’m not all the way there yet,” Kendrick said. “I’ve got a lot more to learn, and once I get it down, I’ll be able to play faster than I am now.”
Kendrick is also in line to take over punt return duties in the absence of Amari Rodgers – who injured his ACL earlier this week – and has spent time in the offensive and defensive meeting rooms. During practices, he switches a white defensive jersey for an orange offensive jersey. Where will he play in the spring game? He has no idea.
“I’m just doing what the team needs me to do,” Kendrick said. “That’s it.”
Swinney loves what he sees out of the sophomore.
“We are going to continue to work him, and we’ll see how it all plays out heading into the season,” Swinney said. “He’s a legit dude that can play either side of the ball. That is a nice luxury for us to have a guy that could be a starter for us on both sides of the ball — the ability and the mindset to do it on both sides at this level. You don’t see many guys that can do that. DK is like, ‘put me in coach. I want to play ball.’ If he ends up making the defense his home in the fall, he will still touch the ball. But he gives us a lot of options.”