Strait Herron has a simple philosophy with South Pointe (S.C) High star Derion Kendrick: Use him in any way possible.
Kendrick started at running back in ninth grade and settled into the secondary as a sophomore, but he said he transitioned to receiver to end the season. Last year, Kendrick led the Stallions at quarterback, and he saw time at linebacker in the 4A state championship game against Hartsville. He’ll start under center next season, but he’ll play receiver and defensive back on occasion.
Herron jokes that if Kendrick was a little bigger, he’d play center, too.
At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Kendrick is the top South Carolina prospect in his class and a 2018 commitment to Clemson. He’s listed as a wide receiver on his recruiting profile, but just as Herron did with cornerback Stephon Gilmore – a former South Pointe and South Carolina standout now with the New England Patriots – Kendrick’s coach doesn’t worry about positions.
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“He’s a great athlete,” Herron said. “We’d be dumb not to put the ball in his hands.”
In this weekend’s Powerade 7-on-7 Invitational at Matthews Sportsplex, Kendrick did it all. In South Pointe’s fourth game Saturday, Kendrick started at receiver, hauling in a 40-yard reception between two defenders and staring down a York (S.C.) defender in the end zone. He finished the game at safety, defending against a 40-yard heave from York (S.C.) with time running out.
And with the ball in his hands after the final whistle, he blindly heaved it across the field and walked to the water cooler. It was a perfect spiral, hitting an opposing coach on the opposite sideline.
“It comes easy,” Herron said. “I don’t think a lot.”
Kendrick did most of his damage Saturday at receiver, leading South Pointe’s high-scoring offense to a 7-0 record and the silver bracket championship. But in the second game of the day, Kendrick iced a victory over Irmo (S.C) with a toe-tapping interception along the goal line. Even his plays at safety brought out the star receiver in him.
When Kendrick was in ninth grade, Herron said he was blown away by Kendrick’s speed, body control and impeccable ball skills at receiver. But that was before he saw his arm.
“I saw him throw a ball 60 yards and I said, ‘Man, he’s got to play quarterback,’” Herron said.
He got his wish in 2016, when Kendrick led the Stallions to 15-1 season and a 4A state title. In the championship game, the South Pointe star threw five touchdowns, had six carries for 42 yards and caught a 24-yard pass in a 51-28 victory.
Kendrick said he was surprised how quickly he was able to pick up the quarterback position in South Pointe’s offense. He says he has most of the playbook down from every spot and doesn’t care which position he plays. At Clemson, Kendrick hopes coach Dabo Swinney lets him play multiple positions.
Herron said he doubts the defending champions will need Kendrick on both sides of the ball. But had Kendrick gone to a smaller school, Herron said it’d be a no-brainer.
“Honestly, I think he would be one of the best safeties or corners that we’ve ever had,” Herron said, noting his competitiveness on the defensive side of the ball. “But I think that he’s got his heart set on playing receiver.”
Kendrick sees receiver as his eventual position should he make it to the NFL. His coach wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a defensive back in the pros. But at South Pointe, Herron will put his star player at whatever position he can.
With an athlete like Kendrick, he’d be dumb not to.
C Jackson Cowart on Twitter: @CJacksonCowart