It wasn't a great 2020 for Clemson Tigers cornerback Derion Kendrick. While it's true that he did earn first-team All-ACC honors last fall, his play was rather inconsistent, punctuated by a less-than-stellar performance against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. He also had off-field issues that forced him to miss three games. And 2021 isn't starting off any better.
The Tigers announced on Sunday that Kendrick is no longer a part of the program. While the Tigers survived without their star corner in those three games last season, his departure creates a hole that is not easily filled. So where does Clemson go?
The starting two corner positions should be fine. Sheridan Jones started eight games for the Tigers in 2020 and should be improved entering his junior season. Andrew Booth Jr. will be on the other side of the field, and while the junior from Dacula, Georgia, needs to be more consistent, he has worlds of talent and was good enough to be a second-team All-ACC pick in 2020.
So, where the Tigers will be impacted the most is in their nickel and dime packages. Younger players will have to step up, but the good news is that Clemson has plenty of options. Malcolm Greene was listed as a safety by most recruiting services coming out of high school, but he saw a good amount of time at corner last fall. He played in all 12 games and had 18 tackles, a couple of pass breakups, and an interception. Fred Davis II was Clemson's highest-ranked defensive back recruit in the Class of 2020, and the Jacksonville, Florida, product appeared in 11 games as a true freshman.
Four-star freshman Nate Wiggins will also get a chance to vie for playing time. The early enrollee has great length (6-2) but needs to add strength. It's also possible that he winds up at safety or receiver, but Clemson is starting him out at corner.
While the youngsters will try to stake their claim, veteran Mario Goodrich will be in the mix as well. The senior has played in 35 games in his Clemson career, starting four. Goodrich had two interceptions versus Pittsburgh and was awarded ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors. He also saw considerable action against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game and Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
So don't fret for Clemson. Losing their all-league corner wasn't what the Tiger staff wanted, but there are plenty of options in the secondary, some of whom may turn out to be better than Kendrick in the long run. Considering the pressure the front seven should generate this fall, the Tigers will be just fine with what they'll suit up at corner this coming season.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
(Top photo courtesy of clemsontigers.com)