Thomas is getting better, pushes Henry to be his best

Thomas is getting better, pushes Henry to be his best

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Thomas is getting better, pushes Henry to be his best

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Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry says his friend and teammate, Xavier Thomas, is doing much better these days.

Thomas, of course, missed a lot of practice time as he continued to get his body back in football shape after missing most of the summer workouts and conditioning programs due to lingering side effects from having COVID-19 and strep throat.

The defensive end, who many considered to be a preseason All-ACC caliber player, was 11 pounds overweight before camp started. The medical staff advised head coach Dabo Swinney that it was best Thomas worked his way back into shape slowly.

“XT is doing well from what I have seen,” Henry said. “I can’t really speak on how he is feeling, obviously. That would be between you guys and him, but from my standpoint, he is doing great.”

As camp began on Aug. 5, Swinney said they would likely redshirt Thomas and try to get him ready to play late in the season and use him like they did linebacker James Skalski in 2018 when he recovered from a shoulder injury.

Swinney believes many college athletes around the nation will benefit from the NCAA’s decision earlier this month to give all fall sport athletes, even those who compete this season, an extra year of eligibility. Thomas is one of the Tigers who has an opportunity to reap the benefits of the NCAA’s eligibility extension.

“We knew he was going to be ready – and he’s actually doing well – but we knew he would be ready here at some point,” Swinney said. “We worked him back into practice, but our plan was to try to hold him and get him ready for the latter part of the season. So now, we don’t have to worry about that. He can get back and play whenever he’s ready to go – he can play five games, seven games, eight games – it doesn’t matter, the objective is still going to be served, but he still has to be ready.

“He’s still a work in progress, but he’s doing really well. He’s responding well to everything, been very engaged, so been pleased with him.”

Part of Thomas’ engagement has been helping Henry and the other defensive ends in practice. Henry, who Swinney has singled out for his play several times during camp, says Thomas has always brought out the best in him.

“He has helped me since day one. We have been competitors since we got here. Just feeding off each other and giving each other tips,” Henry said. “It is not just practice this year, but it has been since we stepped on the field [here]. He has helped me through my entire journey and has made me a better player all the way around.

“He helps me see things and he just helps me grow.”

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