While some people may be amazed by what Xavier Thomas has done already this season, Clemson’s freshman defensive end isn’t one of them.
“I definitely set goals for myself,” he said. “I knew I wanted to come in and make an impact, and that is what I am doing week in and week out. I’m just trying to prove myself.”
Thomas has done a pretty good job of it.
Though Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) returned two First-Team All-Americans at defensive end this season in Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, Thomas has been able to get himself out on the field pretty regularly for the Tigers. He currently ranks fourth on Clemson’s third-ranked defense in tackles for loss with 5.0, while also recording 2.0 sacks.
He has helped Clemson, who was off today, rank second nationally in tackles for loss (58) and third in sacks (20).
Thomas has been so productive, head coach Dabo Swinney asked defensive coordinator Brent Venables to find a way to get him on the field more. Venables has done that by employing a three-man front that puts Thomas in an outside linebacker position where he can use his speed to get around offensive tackles.
Venables lines him up in different spots and has opposing quarterbacks looking for the freshman before they snap the ball.
“I’m very comfortable,” Thomas said. “There are always times when I have to ask a question or get some advice from the older guys about the offensive line and what they might be doing just because of the experience they have.
“I’m just learning from them and going out there just gives you a lot of confidence.”
It’s not just on defense Thomas is playing so confidently. He has also been a problem for the opposition on kick coverage, recording two big tackles on special teams. He played a big role on why Wake Forest’s all-purpose leader did very little for the Demon Deacons in the return game last Saturday.
“Anytime I am on the field, whether it is on special teams or on defense, I just go out there and do my job,” he said. “I’m just doing what I can do.”