SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Entering Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, everybody is talking about Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy finalist defensive end Chase Young and how he will impact the game.
Meanwhile, there has not been much buzz about Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas on the other side, but he hopes to change that and break out with a statement performance for the third-ranked Tigers against the No. 2 Buckeyes at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“Just going to do the best I can to just get my job done overall and just show the world what I can do,” Thomas told The Clemson Insider on Thursday during the Fiesta Bowl media day at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn. “A lot of people don’t know what I can do yet. I’m just ready to showcase that.”
Thomas has not had the sophomore season he might have envisioned or hoped for heading into the year, as he has only two sacks in 10 games and missed three games after suffering a concussion in practice leading up to the Louisville game on Oct. 19.
So, the former five-star prospect sees the Fiesta Bowl as a prime opportunity to make a name for himself on a big stage, similar to former Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd in the 2016 College Football Playoff.
That year, Dodd recorded four tackles and a sack in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, seven tackles and three sacks in the national title game versus Alabama, and went on to be selected by the Tennessee Titans with the first pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft (No. 33 overall).
“It’s definitely a chance,” Thomas said. “I’ve been thinking about this during that time off when I had my concussion and I sat out for about half of the season, and I was just thinking about that. Knowing it was going to take me a while to get back in my groove after I got back for those last two or so games of the season, I knew I was going to have my chance to come back 100-percent in the playoffs and just show what I can do.”
Thomas, who says he feels 100-percent healthy now, is ready to lay it all on the line to help Clemson’s defense try to slow down quarterback Justin Fields, running back J.K. Dobbins and the Ohio State offense, which ranks No. 1 nationally in scoring offense at 48.7 points per game.
“They’re a great offensive line and have great skillset on the outside, great duo combo in J.K. and Justin,” Thomas said. “We have to do our best, just try to maintain them.”
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