Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney welcomed nine freshmen midyear enrollees from the historic 2018 signing class to campus in January.
The group is tied for the biggest class of midyears for the Clemson program. Swinney also had nine midyear enrollees in 2015.
The nine newcomers began classes on Jan. 10 and can participate in Clemson’s spring practices, which start Feb. 28.
In the second installment of our Impact Freshmen series detailing Clemson’s early enrollees, The Clemson Insider looks at five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas:
Hometown (High School): Florence, S.C. (IMG (Fla.) Academy)
Height, Weight: 6-3, 269
Prospect ratings/rankings: 5-star, No. 2 DE, No. 1 state, No. 4 national (ESPN); 5-star, No. 1 SDE, No. 1 state, No. 5 national (Rivals); 5-star, No. 1 SDE, No. 1 state, No. 4 national (247Sports)
High school stats/accolades: Winner of the Anthony Munoz Award as the National Lineman of the Year at the U.S. Army Game in San Antonio… Finalist for USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year… Played in U.S. Army All-America game Jan. 6, 2018… Played defensive line for Wilson High School in Florence, S.C., before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior year… Had eight sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 59 total tackles as a true freshman playing on varsity at Wilson in 2014… Also had 21 quarterback pressures… Followed it up with nine sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 70 tackles at Wilson his sophomore year, 2015… Also had some time at running back… Had career high 20-209 rushing against Myrtle Beach… Finished year with 59-568 and eight touchdowns, a 9.6 yards per carry figure… Had 34 tackles and eight tackles for loss in 2017 at IMG Academy… Also had a blocked punt recovery for a touchdown in 2017… Competed at the 2017 The Opening hosted by Nike in Oregon
Strengths: Off the field, Thomas served as one of the most active player-recruiters for Clemson’s heralded class, aiding the Tigers in their efforts to acquire more top-tier talent after he committed in April 2017. On the field, Thomas is special. Beast is an apt word to describe him. At 6-foot-3, 269 pounds, Thomas is physically advanced for his age and ready to play right away at the next level. Combined with other physical tools such as his athleticism and strength, he is a powerful rusher off the edge and load for opposing offensive linemen to handle. Thomas is quick off the ball and plays with a tremendous motor. He is a strong edge-setter in the run game and can get to the quarterback in a hurry as a pass rusher. He is physical, aggressive and an ideal all-around defensive end.
How he fits in: The return of Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Christian Wilkins for one more season likely means that Thomas won’t be asked to do as much for the Tigers as a freshman. There won’t be as much pressure on Thomas to immediately perform up to the hype that accompanies him. Instead, Clemson will be able to bring him along at a slower pace as he learns behind Ferrell and the others for a year, which could benefit him greatly in the long run. With that said, Thomas figures to avoid a redshirt and play in his first year as a Tiger. He is simply too good not to. Look for Thomas to progress and become a centerpiece in Clemson’s defense sooner than later.
Coach speak: IMG Academy head coach Kevin Wright on Thomas — “He’s a high-effort guy. He’s got physical tools that are really unmatched by most high school athletes. His ability to get off the football, his power, his strength… But I think really he’s a high-effort guy. You’ll see him chase the ball down from the other side of the field. He practices like that.
“So, he’s a humble kid, great kid to coach, and I think he’s right where he needs to be.”
–Staff reports contributed to this story
Previous installments in TCI’s Impact Freshmen series: