With the way Xavier Thomas played as a true freshman, everyone expects he will be even better in year two, especially with All-Americans Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant playing on Sundays.
It is assumed Bryant will just slid right into one of their spots and become the next great defensive end in Clemson history. Though defensive coordinator Brent Venables is okay with the fans and media assuming that, he wants Thomas to look at it a little differently.
He wants his sophomore, who potentially could be the best defensive end Clemson has ever seen, to continue to work and grind and prove how good he really can be.
“He has made some real improvement and we are looking for another step or transition of improving,” Venables said. “Xavier has really had some good moments in camp and has gotten himself better.”
However, Thomas would also be the first person to tell anyone that he is not where he wants to be.
“You got to bring it every day. Whatever that looks like, you got to bring it to be a good player,” Venables said. “When I say a good player, that is not a casual thing to me. Good player means you must be pretty good. A great player is a whole other level. The difference between good and great is not much in some ways, but it is a lot. To the naked eye, it is different.
“There are very few great players. He has the ability to be a great player, and I think he is on his way if he just keeps grinding.”
Venables says Thomas is still learning the little things about being a good defensive end. His effort is where it needs to be, and he goes hard every day in practice. He just wants to see him pick up on the little things faster.
“I would not say he is taking a play off, just do the little things great,” Venables said. “What does that look like and what does that mean? Sometimes it is just knowing what you are supposed to do. Again, I know I am supposed to be on the inside half of that A-gap, I am getting on the inside half because somebody is on the outside half. Not just because it sounds good.
“Don’t try and do too much, just do your job and do it really, really well.”