Clemson has produced more than its share of NFL receivers in recent years, including a pair of first-round picks – DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
Tigers freshman wideout Derion Kendrick has been turning heads since he stepped on campus, and members of Clemson’s coaching staff recently said Kendrick reminds them of the two former All-Americans.
“DK, he reminds me of Sammy. It’s just a different gear,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “When he moves, when he takes off at the line, it’s just a different speed.”
Watkins was named the National Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American in 2011 after posting 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He is, arguably, the best receiver to play at Clemson.
Fellow co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott agrees that Kendrick has some of the same characteristics as Watkins.
“I really noticed that at our football camp the past two years. The explosiveness was apparent there, and I said then he was probably one of the most explosive guys we’ve had come through our camp since Sammy,” Scott said. “Watching him out here, I’m not surprised at all. Some guys, it’s very effortless and very easy for them to run. Other guys, it’s a little bit more work. He’s one of those guys where it just looks very easy for him.”
The speed at which Kendrick is making a name for himself at receiver is impressive considering he played quarterback his last two years of high school.
Kendrick passed for 2,683 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior at South Pointe High and rushed for 1,194 yards and 20 scores.
South Pointe won the state title each of the past four years.
Elliott believes Kendrick has had an easier time transitioning to receiver than former Clemson star Deon Cain, who also played quarterback in high school.
“Everything I can see, it looks very, very natural. Deon played quarterback, but this guy just looks more natural (changing positions),” Elliott said. “Deon had to really learn how to play the position. (Kendrick’s) a lot like Ray-Ray (McCloud). Ray-Ray was a guy that played running back, but he was just very fluid and natural at the position. That’s what you see with DK.”
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said he believes comparing Kendrick with Watkins is fair, and he also sees a lot of Hopkins in Kendrick’s play.
“He’s tough, man, that guy has got a great edge to him that is sometimes not always present when you recruit a receiver. He played quarterback like a linebacker. He’s a lot like Nuk. DK is faster than Nuk, but Nuk, you just knew when you stepped on the field with him you were fixing to go against the most competitive guy on the practice field,” Swinney said. “DK has got a lot of that in him. That’s something that’s jumped out at me these first four days, he is highly, highly competitive. He takes to it naturally. He likes to block, he likes it salty. He’s my kind of guy.”