When Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas announced his commitment to Clemson before the annual Orange & White spring game on Saturday, it was a formality.
Thomas, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, had his mind made up two weeks ago.
“I made my decision a couple of weeks ago,” Thomas told The Clemson Insider shortly after his announcement.
Thomas, whose recruitment has been down to Clemson and South Carolina since December, knew then what his choice would be.
A visit to South Carolina for its spring game last week reaffirmed that Clemson is the school for him.
“That is why I took my visit to South Carolina last week to make sure and I knew Clemson is where I want to be,” he said.
Thomas had originally planned to announce his decision on Dec. 20.
Yet eighth months earlier, the nation’s No. 1 defensive end became the seventh member of what is right now already a historic 2018 Clemson recruiting class — with the potential to get even better.
Thomas grew up a fan of the Gamecocks with his hometown of Florence, S.C., just an hour and 15 minutes away from Columbia.
Thus, with South Carolina making him its biggest priority, Thomas was viewed as a heavy South Carolina lean for much of his recruitment.
But Clemson completely changed that, sooner than most thought possible, and the feat is the latest testament to the growing power of the Tiger Paw.
On the heels of a national championship and with its shiny new football facility completed, Clemson pulled off another coup that speaks to the strength of Clemson’s brand and state of the program right now, stealing a coveted recruit from the clutches of self-admitted childhood favorite South Carolina.
The developments with Thomas are much like those that transpired with Cartersville (Ga.) five-star Clemson quarterback commitment Trevor Lawrence.
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect was of course down to Clemson and Georgia. The in-state Bulldogs were considered the team to beat before the Tigers flexed their muscles and got his pledge before many expected him to pull the trigger on a commitment.
Like Thomas, Lawrence saw the programs he was deciding between in two different places — one rebuilding and coming off a disappointing season; the other entrenched among the country’s elite.
So now, for the first time ever, Clemson holds commitments from the No. 1 and No. 2 players in a recruiting class. And it might not be finished nabbing cream of the crop talent this cycle.
Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County five-star running back Zamir White, who joined Thomas and Lawrence on campus for the spring game today, has cut his recruitment down to finalists Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and North Carolina. Fairfield (Ohio) five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman and Atlanta (Ga.) Pace Academy five-star guard Jamaree Salyer, two other top-10 prospects, both hold Clemson in high regard.
White, the nation’s No. 1 running back and No. 3 overall prospect, is believed to favor Georgia at the present time for factors including a pair of visits to Athens in a span of three weeks earlier this year.
But could Clemson pull off the trifecta and land the top three prospects in the 2018 recruiting class? Thomas and Lawrence are already hard at work in an attempt to make it happen.
Whether it will remains to be seen, but you can’t discount the power of the Paw.