3 Tigers Who Need to Have Big Summers: Defensive Line

Now that spring practice is over, the staff of AllClemson.com looks at the players who need to have big summers for the Clemson Tigers, including Justin Mascoll, Zaire Patterson, and K.J. Henry.
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The Clemson Tigers have entered the "Transformation Phase" of their year. It's a time when they'll prepare their bodies and minds for the grueling season, starting with summer workouts and the ensuing fall camp.

Today we look at three defensive linemen who need to have a transformational summer:

1. K.J. Henry: Missing an entire spring due to an injury was never going to help Henry in 2021, but his absence hasn't seemed to worry the Tigers coaching staff too much. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was pleased with Henry's optimism and poise regarding the negative situation, but that doesn't take away from the ground that the edge can regain once fall camp begins.

Henry registered six starts in 2020 over 12 games and was a quality role player for an already injury-riddled defensive line. The 2021 season holds different circumstances, however. Henry will have to compete with the finally healthy Xavier Thomas and impressive freshmen Cade Denhoff to secure a starting edge rusher role this fall as a graduate junior.

2. Justin Mascoll: Mascoll has more of a chance to make a significant impact this year than some may predict. Especially assuming Thomas falls into habits of season's past and Henry's rehab takes a hit, or if the injury sets him back too much physically on the field. Entering his fourth season, Mascoll could earn much-deserved playing time from a hard-fought summer.

Mascoll received nine starts in 2020, but similar to Henry; injuries expedited a potentially long road. Nine games worth of starting experience doesn't come easy under Venables, and the defensive coordinator only can add to his long list of starting caliber talent at edge rusher with Mascoll. With a good summer, the fourth year could see a jump over all three teammates mentioned above.

3. Zaire Patterson: While Patterson didn't use the ability to enroll like other members of his 2021 class early, he will have plenty of reps to learn from veterans once he arrives in the summer. Patterson is one of just a few to come this summer and the only defensive player from his recruiting class.

Already being young in the program is a setback as is, but joining the party late may have sealed his chances on the field this season, barring injury. Still, Patterson is a top 100 talent out of high school, and a year of mentorship and dedication to the playbook will go a long way in a potential redshirt season to start his Clemson career.

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