A look at Clemson’s 2021 depth chart: Weakside defensive end
Though his official injury was never disclosed by Clemson Athletics, Justin Foster is expected to be with the Tigers when spring practice begins at the end of this month.
To what extent, no one knows. But head coach Dabo Swinney noted prior to the end of the 2020 season that the defensive end wanted to return to school and play in 2021.
“He is doing a lot better and he has made a lot of progress,” Swinney said back in November. “Like I said, he has had some challenges, but things he has really worked through. He is such a great leader.
“The silver lining is we are going to get him back next year. That is a positive.”
Foster was expected to be one of the Tigers’ top returning defensive players in 2020. But he did not play at all last season.
The defensive end was an honorable mention on the All-ACC team in 2019 after he tallied 41 tackles while starting 13 of the 15 games he played. Foster finished second behind All-American Isaiah Simmons in tackles for loss with 10.5.
His 4.5 sacks ranked third on the defense in 2019. The defensive end also had 12 quarterback pressures, which ranked second behind Simmons as well.
In the Tigers’ Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State in the 2020 College Football Playoff, Foster had one of the best games of his career. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive end lived in the Buckeyes’ backfield most of the night. He harassed quarterback Justin Fields, while recording a half sack and 1.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He finished the game with five tackles.
Foster also had a sack in the CFP National Championship Game against LSU.
“Sometimes great things happen out of adverse situations. You can just look at Cornell Powell,” Swinney said. “Cornell had to redshirt his third year and he was not real happy about it at the time. But without that redshirt he is not here this year and really doing what he is doing.
“So, obviously, I hate that Justin has not been able to play, but the silver lining is he is excited to come back next year and be the best version of himself. But he is hopeful. I mean it has just been a process for him this fall, but he is one of the best team leaders we have on this team. If there is any way he can get back and play, I promise you he will do it. It will not be from a lack of trying.”
TCI’s projected depth chart at weakside defensive end heading into spring practice:
Justin Mascoll, *Jr., 6-3, 255: Mascoll started nine games last season for the Tigers. He tallied 29 tackles last year, including four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and fumble recovery. His best game came against Boston College, where he had four tackles, including one tackle for loss.
Greg Williams, *So., 6-4, 260: Williams has played in 11 games in his career thus far, including seven games this past season as a reserve. He was credited with seven tackles and a sack. He had a career day against The Citadel, tying for the team lead with six tackles including his first career sack. Added one tackle at Virginia Tech.
Justin Foster, *Jr, 6-2, 275: Missed all of last season with an undisclosed injury. Not sure how he will be used this spring but based off what the staff has done in the past they will bring him along slowly given that he missed the entire 2020 season. The defensive end was an honorable mention on the All-ACC team in 2019 after he tallied 41 tackles while starting 13 of the 15 games he played. Foster finished second behind All-American Isaiah Simmons in tackles for loss with 10.5. His 4.5 sacks ranked third on the defense in 2019. The defensive end also had 12 quarterback pressures, which ranked second behind Simmons as well.
K.J. Henry, *Jr., 6-4, 255: Henry had post-season surgery. Not sure about the amount of practice time he will miss or if he will even practice this spring. Henry started six games, while playing in all 12 for the Tigers. He had 29 tackles, including six for loss. He had 3.5 sacks and broke up two passes, while recovering one fumble.