CB Review: An All ACC Duo

JP-Priester

Editor’s note: @ClemsonSI is running a series of 10 positional breakdowns each day reviewing the 2019 season.

One of the lasting memories from the last time the Clemson football team played was of LSU wide receiver JaMarr Chase having his way with the Tigers corners. However, one bad night, even if it comes on the biggest stage, shouldn't overshadow everything else the team got from the position group in 2019.

Unlike all the questions surrounding the front seven of the defense heading into the season, there was just one when it came to the cornerbacks. Who would replace the departed Trayvon Mullen, and start opposite of the returning AJ Terrell?

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AJ Terrell 

Oddly enough, the coaches would have to look over on the offensive side of the ball to find the answer. Faced with a shortage of bodies due to the number of players at the position being banged up early on in spring ball, wideout Derion Kendrick was moved over to help with depth, in a move thought to be temporary.

Kendrick made an impression almost immediately. A move that was supposed to be short term, quickly became permanent, and the Tigers had found their next starting corner. 

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Derion Kendrick (1)

Positional Breakdown: Throughout the season, it was Terrell and Kendrick getting the majority of the time on the field, with 785 and 689 snaps respectively. The next closest was Mario Goodrich, who was on the field for 205 snaps. Sheridan Jones was the only other corner with over 100 snaps, logging 140. 

The Clemson defense allowed just six yards per completion and only 172 passing yards per game, finishing with the nations fourth best pass defense. Terrell and Kendrick were a big part of the reason why, as opposing QB's were forced to pick their poison when deciding which guy to attempt to throw on. 

Terrell finished the season with 39 tackles, two interceptions, and seven passes broken up. He was named first team All ACC, his second consecutive season earning All ACC honors. 

Kendrick finished with 51 tackles, two interceptions, including a pick six against Florida State, and six passes broken up. He was named a second team All ACC selection in just his first season at the position at this level.

Strengths: Two of the biggest strengths that both Terrell and Kendrick possess, are their coverage skills, and their physicality. Both of which were on full display throughout the season. 

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AJ Terrell (8) celebrates an interception during the Wake Forest game with LB Isaiah Simmons (11)

Both players are future NFL corners with impeccable cover skills, while neither shy away from mixing it up in one on one, press coverage. Both are capable of being put on an island, and that allows more flexibility within the defense. 

Weaknesses: Pinpointing a weakness of either guy seems like nitpicking, but if there is one, it is how often they go for a big hit, instead of wrapping up and making a tackle. There were multiple examples during the season in which a ball carrier would get by them after they failed to wrap up. 

Overall, the cornerback position was a position of strength for the Tigers. This team had two corners they could trust out on an island, and for many teams it is difficult enough to find just one corner capable of playing at that level. 

Hopefully fans won't let what happened in the national title game skew their perceptions of how well Terrell and Kendrick played in every game up to that point. Most years, teams aren't getting that kind of play from both starting cornerbacks.

Overall Grade: A-

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