Another position group Clemson began the 2021 season excited about were the defensive ends. They too were strong throughout the season while battling the common theme for this team, the injury bug.
After getting word that Justin Foster would be able to return after thinking he would never play again due to COVID and asthma related issues, having a healthy Xavier Thomas, KJ Henry hoping to have a breakout season, and stud Myles Murphy coming off of his huge freshman campaign, everyone had tons of reason for high expectations.
This group’s biggest disappointment came when they found out after their loss to Pitt that they would be without Foster the rest of the season with a back injury that would require surgery.
The 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive end who battled so hard to come back and be a contributor for this defense only to see his Clemson career cut short after all. Henry also battled injuries throughout the season, yet still ended up third on the team with 4.5 sacks.
This was another group on the defensive side that did not allow the injuries to keep them from contributing on the field and helped the Tigers end the season ranked No. 8 overall in total defense, No. 2 in scoring defense behind only Georgia, and No. 9 in sacks.
Moving forward, the Tigers look to be losing Xavier Thomas, Justin Foster, and Regan Upshaw. KJ Henry mad everyone happey earlier in the week by announcing that he would return for a fifth season.
2022 Defensive Ends
K.J. Henry: One of the shocks, so far this offseason, was the announcement from Henry that he has decided to return for one more season. That decision will help add a little more experience and much needed depth to this group going into next season.
Justin Mascoll: After a season where he saw action in 11 games and had 11 tackles total (four solo) he will be expected to contribute more next season as he enters his red shirt senior campaign.
Myles Murphy: The second-team All-ACC player proved that his freshman season was no fluke and the sky is the limit. Barring any major setbacks many expect 2022 will be his final one at Clemson.
Greg Williams: Another young man who will be expected to step up next season and contribute. During his two years at Clemson he has played in 15 games and had 11 tackles (five solo and one sack).
Kevin Swint: The rising junior out of Carrollton, Ga. has played in 20 games over his first two seasons and has had 11 total tackles (seven solo, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a half sack). It will be interesting to see if he can continue to improve. Swint made the move from linebacker to end prior to the 2021 season.
Cade Denhoff: Denhoff came to Clemson a Top-100 prospect. After redshirting this season, Denhoff should start seeing the field in 2022.
Zaire Patterson: This four star recruit and another Top-100 talent. Like Denhoff, he needed a season to acclimate and develop but should be ready to start contributing next season.
2022 Class: Currently Clemson has no defensive ends in the 2022 class. Jihaad Campbell backed off his commitment after Brent Venables left for Oklahoma, leaving the Tigers looking to fill that spot with very little time to do so. Jahiem Lawson, the younger brother of Shaq Lawson, just picked up an offer and is expected to join the class. While Lawson is definitely a developmental guy, there is a lot to like when you cut on the film.
Roster Management: This position is one where Tigers generally like to carry 10 players and the numbers are not good at all going forward. The departures of Thomas, Foster, and Regan Upshaw leaves just seven scholarship players going into 2022, with just the one coming in. When you combine that with the fact that four of those players will very likely be playing their final season next year, that means the coaching staff has some work to do in the 2023 class.
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