1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Derion Kendrick (11) celebrates following their 33-18 win against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Georgia transfer Derion Kendrick ready to make most of next opportunity in the NFL

ATHENS — Derion Kendrick needed a second chance at college football, and Georgia football needed an experienced cornerback to fortify a dominant defense in the making.

It proved a good match last season, with Kendrick transferring into UGA last summer after domestic complications led to absences from Clemson team functions that led to his dismissal from the South Carolina school.

Tigers coach Dabo Sweeney gave Kendrick his blessing, “He’ll be well-coached there (at Georgia), and I just want to see him finish well,” while the Bulldogs’ players welcomed him with open arms.

“He brings a lot of confidence in that secondary, confidence and swagger,” Georgia team captain Nakobe Dean said. “Just to have him, he brought a lot of experience, also, so just to have him back there is just great.

Kendrick no doubt, lived up to all of the hype by leading the Bulldogs with four interceptions, including two in the CFP Orange Bowl semifinal win over Michigan that earned him Defensive MVP honors.

“He fit right in with our guys, and he’s been a tremendous leader,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I’m really proud of everything.”

Kendrick admitted it was a bit of a transition playing for Smart and the Bulldogs after leaving Sweeney’s Clemson program.

“Practices were a lot harder, a lot faster at Georgia,” Kendrick said. “It’s always consistently moving no matter where we were at from the start of practice until the end.

“Dabo is more settled, Kirby has a little bit more energy, and when it comes to practice he treats it more like the game, whether it’s a technique or finishing the play, he’s always on that microphone pointing you out.”

Kendrick finished second among the UGA defensive backs, behind All-SEC safety Lewis Cine, with 41 tackles, showing the sort of run support NFL teams will like.

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout with four Super Bowl-winning franchises, saw enough to believe Kendrick a worthy prospect.

“On tape he’s got really good feet, really good transition skills in off-man coverage, he can play the ball, competitive guy and a good football player,” Nagy said.

“A lot of teams had Day Two grades on him throughout the fall, and really he was a slam dunk, he never was on the cutline for us and we targeted him since last spring.”

The next time Kendrick gets targeted, it will be on an NFL practice field.

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