Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas originally planned to announce his commitment to either Clemson or South Carolina on his birthday, Dec. 20.
But the native of Florence, S.C., ended up picking Clemson eight months ahead of the scheduled decision date, because he saw no need to wait.
He made trips to Clemson and South Carolina with a tour bus of IMG teammates in early March, then went to South Carolina again on April 1 for its spring game. A week later, on the day of Clemson’s spring game, he pulled the trigger early on his pledge to the Tigers.
“I knew it was the school for me two weeks before their spring game,” Thomas said on ESPNU today during the newtwork’s ESPN 300 Release Special. “That’s why I took those visits to South Carolina so I could make sure Clemson was the school I wanted to be at, and after I took those visits I realized Clemson was the school for me.
“So I brought my family there, and it was a very special moment for me and my family.”
Thomas cited his relationships with defensive coordinator Brent Venables and defensive line coach Todd Bates as a key factor in his decision.
“I really based my decision on just the trust with coaches there,” he said. “I talk to players a lot about how they feel about coach (Dabo) Swinney and coach Bates and coach Venables and all that. I have a good relationship with coach Bates and coach Venables, and it’s been a humbling experience.”
Thomas could have drawn out the excitement of his recruitment and kept the country waiting to see who he would choose. Convinced that Clemson is the place for him, though, he didn’t want to prolong the process.
He also knew that if he publicized his commitment sooner than later, he could get a jumpstart on recruiting other top players to join him in Clemson’s 2018 class.
Thomas is already hard at work trying to do just that. During the broadcast, he named fellow five-star recruits Patrick Surtain, Anthony Cook, Jamaree Salyer, Jackson Carman and Zamir White as players he is working on.
“I just wanted to go ahead and shut my recruitment down,” Thomas said. “I saw the opportunity we have with this Clemson 2018 class. We have an opportunity to have one of the best classes in school history and the No. 1 class in the country. So I just wanted to go ahead and shut it down and show other top players that Clemson is the place to be and then start recruiting for this class.”
In Thomas and Cartersville (Ga.) five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Clemson carries commitments from two of the top five players in the new ESPN Junior 300 rankings that were unveiled today. Thomas is the network’s top overall prospect, while Lawrence slots in at No. 3.
Clemson commitments Justin Mascoll (No. 34), Derion Kendrick (No. 72), Josh Belk (No. 88) and Mike Jones (No. 197) are also ranked among the top 300.
Clemson’s 2018 class of eight commits is currently ranked fourth nationally by ESPN.