Derion Kendrick-Georgia football-impact
Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick (1) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Rick Scuteri

Derion Kendrick addition helps Georgia secondary, adds intrigue to Clemson game

Georgia had zero starting experience at the cornerback position coming out of spring practice.

It has now added a player with 23 career starts and experience playing in the College Football Playoff, as the Bulldogs landed Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick.

DawgNation confirmed the news of the Kendrick addition.

Related: Derion Kendrick chooses Georgia, former Clemson All-ACC cornerback reports this week

In his time at Clemson, Kendrick earned First Team and Second Team All-ACC honors. In the last two seasons, Kendrick had 12 pass breakups and three interceptions for the Tigers.

Kendrick was dismissed from the Clemson program in March and shortly after he was arrested on a charge of unlawful carrying of a handgun. The arrest occurred in Kendrick’s hometown of Rock Hill, S.C.

Related: Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick prioritizes academics in return to college football

The addition of Kendrick is notable for a number of reasons. Georgia is starting over at the cornerback position in 2021, as the Bulldogs must replace Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell, DJ Daniel and Tyrique Stevenson.

Jalen Kimber, Ameer Speed and Kelee Ringo emerged as the top options at the cornerback position following Georgia’s spring practice. Kimber and Speed started in Georgia’s G-Day scrimmage, while Ringo presents the most upside due to his athletic gifts.

“He’s got a lot of confidence to gain in our system,” Smart said of Ringo back in March. “He’s got a lot to learn in our system, and you know what? He’s not shying away from it.”

The Bulldogs also have two freshmen at the position in Nyland Green and Kamari Lassiter. Both were 4-star signees in the 2021 recruiting cycle. Green was an early enrollee but was unable to participate in the G-Day scrimmage. Lassiter is set to arrive at Georgia this summer.

Kendrick will be able to step in and compete for a starting spot at cornerback. While he didn’t have stellar outings against Ohio State or LSU in Clemson’s playoff losses, he’s still new to the cornerback position. He signed with the Tigers as a 5-star wide receiver prospect in the 2018 signing class.

Following Georgia’s spring game, head coach Kirby Smart highlighted one aspect in particular where he wants to see his secondary improve, an area Kendrick should be able to help out in.

“We’re trying defensively to get better at zone,” Smart said. “We’re a man match. We don’t play a lot of man to man but we play man match. A lot of times your back is turned to the ball. We want to get better at zone.”

Related: Kirby Smart outlines what Kelee Ringo must do this spring for Georgia football

This is the third time this offseason Georgia has added a transfer defensive back. West Virginia safety Tykee Smith announced his decision to transfer in April. Georgia then brought in Alabama transfer Brandon Turnage. Both of those players are likely to help Georgia out at safety, though there is some thought Turnage could play cornerback.

The NCAA recently amended its transfer policy to where it now allows immediate eligibility for first-time transfers. The SEC is still deciding whether or not to amend its intraconference transfer rule that requires players transferring from one SEC school to another to sit out a year, but that has no impact on Kendrick.

Georgia also opens the season against Kendrick’s former team in Charlotte. The Sept. 4 game figures to be one of the most anticipated games of the college football season.

Kendrick will now be defending some of his former teammates such as Justyn Ross or EJ Williams. Clemson will still have a stout defense, as it returns nine of its 11 starters on that side of the ball.

Following Kendrick’s dismissal from the program, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney shared his thoughts on the defensive back.

“I want to say that I love DK,” Swinney said. “He is a young man that I have always loved as a football player. He has a good heart. He has a really good heart.

“He has never been a disrespectful young man or anything like that, just sometimes there just needs to be a change.”

Clemson will be breaking in a new quarterback in DJ Uiagalelei, as he replaces Trevor Lawrence.

The Bulldogs are set to start summer workouts in June and will do so in a new $80 million football facility. Georgia will begin fall practice in August. That will represent Kendrick’s first chance to get on the field and win one of starting cornerback jobs for the Bulldogs.

More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation