Although some of the negative 2020 vibes are spilling over into 2021 - with gas shortages in the US and rockets firing in the Middle East - Clemson fans have received two pieces of great news in recent days.
First, it was announced that Defensive End Justin Foster would return to Clemson and play the 2021 football season. This followed a positive medical evaluation at Duke Medical Center. While one would imagine he’s still not 100% and will have some rust to shake off after missing all of the 2020 season, the boost is nevertheless substantial.
The Tigers return nine starters from a defense that was good last year, but a bit below their normal elite standards. They finished 15th in yards-per-game-allowed, 19th in yards-per-play-allowed, and 18th in points-per-game-allowed. The only real question marks on defense are depth in the secondary following Derion Kendrick’s departure and depth at DE where the Tigers were far less dominant than usual last season.
With Foster’s return, he joins Myles Murphy, KJ Henry, Xavier Thomas, and Justin Mascoll as likely major contributors. That gives the Tigers some serious depth at DE, something they didn’t have last year when Murphy was getting his feet wet as a true freshman and Xavier Thomas was recovering from his own bout of COVID+Strep Throat.
Clemson’s defense may return to its dominant ways in 2021, and it now appears it will begin in a jam-packed Bank of America Stadium. The NC Governor has lifted restrictions so the Tigers and Bulldogs will play in front of 75,000 fans. While I was extremely grateful to watch college football last season, let’s call a spade a spade. Seeing the Tigers play in front of sparse crowds and even some empty stadiums (in Winston-Salem and Blacksburg) was bland. More so than any other sport, college football needs the pomp, pageantry, and passion the fans bring. 2021 will deliver it and it’s going to be awesome.