Expectations high for Thomas and company at defensive end

Expectations high for Thomas and company at defensive end


Expectations high for Thomas and company at defensive end


Over the last two seasons, no tandem of bookends in college football were more dominant than Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.

The two combined for 67.5 tackles for loss and 37.5 sacks as they terrorized opposing quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield.

Ferrell became the first Clemson player since 1982, and just the second all-time, to be named a First-Team Associated Press All-American two straight years. Bryant was a First-Team All-American in 2017 and was an All-ACC performer in each of the last two seasons.

“The bar has been set,” defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall said. “Cle and Austin, they have set the bar really high. They set the example on how to prepare. How to practice and how to get yourself ready. I am constantly reminding those young guys that ‘there is the example and that is what it looks like.’”

Those young guys—Xavier Thomas, Justin Foster, Logan Rudolph, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll—are now the guys, as Hall has to replace Ferrell and Bryant as they begin their NFL careers. Thomas, Foster and Rudolph played this season, while Henry and Mascoll redshirted.

“So, the bar has been set and I do not expect any drop off,” Hall said. “I expect to be more detailed in what we are trying to do. Continue to work hard in the weight room, work hard on the field, in the classroom and to give effort and be detailed.”

In his freshman campaign, Thomas proved just how special he can be. The former 5-star, who was the No. 3 overall player in the country in the 2018 recruiting class, recorded 35 tackles as a backup to Ferrell, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also had four quarterback pressures and forced one fumble.

“Xavier Thomas, he is a good player and he is going to be great,” Hall said. “There are things that he needs to continue to work on.”

Hall is also high on Henry and Mascoll.

“K.J., he has gotten bigger and stronger in the weight room,” he said. “He has gotten big and he is understanding what college football is about.

“Justin Mascoll is a kid that I keep hearing rave reviews about all the time from the offensive coaches about how hard he practices and the effort he has given. I have seen it.”

This past season, Foster showed flashes as well. He played in all 15 games and record 18 tackles. Six of his 18 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, including two sacks. He also recovered a fumble.

Rudolph played in 14 games and had 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss.

“I’m losing some great guys, but I have some good ones coming back, and I only expect us to continue to get better each and every day,” Hall said.

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