Clemson is returning nine starters on its defense in 2021.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney confirmed Monday after the team's spring practice session that all-conference cornerback Derion Kendrick was no longer with the program. Kendrick was one of Clemson's best defensive players in 2020 as the Tigers made the College Football Playoff again.
Swinney said that he'd "always be pulling" for Kendrick wherever his "next stop" would be. Kendrick was a first-team All-ACC pick in 2020 and one of 12 Clemson players who made either the first, second or third teams.
"He’s a young man who I’ve always loved as a football player," Swinney said. "He’s got a good heart, he’s got a really good heart. He’s never been a disrespectful young man or anything like that. Just sometimes there needs to be a change. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to help him and hopefully make a difference for him the last three years."
Kendrick had 18 tackles, an interception and six passes defensed in 12 games in 2020. He led the team in passes defensed; Andrew Booth was the only other Tiger with more than two passes defensed. Kendrick didn't play against Pitt in November in what Swinney said was a disciplinary issue.
As a sophomore in 2019, Kendrick had 43 tackles and had two interceptions. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown against Florida State.
According to The State, Kendrick could choose to enter the NFL's supplemental draft or transfer to play at another school. If Kendrick enters the supplemental draft, he'd essentially go to an NFL team that bid the highest on him. If an NFL team put a fourth-round pick value on Kendrick and won his rights that team would lose a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
Without Kendrick in the fold in 2021, Clemson will return nine of 11 defensive starters. The team was set to have its entire defense back for the upcoming season in January after Kendrick, LB Baylon Spector, S Nolan Turner and LB James Skalski all said that they would be returning for the upcoming season. But that dropped to 10 in January when linebacker Mike Jones said he was transferring. Jones was ninth on the team with 26 tackles and had two interceptions.
That talent return on defense is a big reason why Clemson is going to be ranked highly entering the fall despite the losses of QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne.
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