Slowly but surely, Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas is getting back to form.
For a third straight week this past Saturday, Thomas made his way onto the playing field. However, this time he was on the field a whole lot earlier than he was the previous two games since his return to play.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound defense end found himself running into the game on Syracuse’ third possession. Thomas played 20 snaps against Georgia Tech in Atlanta after playing briefly late in the game against Miami on Oct. 10.
“I thought (this) last week, he was better than the week before,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said on Monday. “He is still working on getting in shape and getting back to the feel of things. He is getting his legs underneath him and the wind in his chest. So, again, he is trending in the right direction and we could really use it.”
Getting Thomas back to full speed is going to be a big lift to a defense that is already one of the best in the nation in terms of yards and points allowed, sacks and tackles for loss.
Thomas made his way back to the practice fields prior to the Virginia game on Oct. 3, and even started working with the scout team before then. He made his 2020 debut in the Miami game.
The Tigers’ defensive end missed the first three games of the season after he contracted the coronavirus before he was set to return to Clemson in June. Thomas also developed strep throat over the summer.
The two illnesses prevented the All-ACC candidate from working out with his team, as he came into camp still trying to get his strength back and was overweight. Clemson’s doctors thought it was best at the time to hold him out of fall camp, allowing himself to slowly get back to health and then football shape before returning to regular practice.
As the top-ranked Tigers get set to hit the back half of their schedule, Thomas return is a great edition as Clemson tires to make a run at another ACC Championship and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff.
Against Syracuse, Thomas recorded two tackles, including one sack in the Tigers’ 47-21 victory at Death Valley.
“It was great to see. He made some plays. He was disruptive a little bit,” Venables said. “He probably should have had another sack if they don’t latch on to him right there.
“He is getting his confidence back. When you have not played and practiced in a little while, that will do it to you for sure. It is good to see some of the success that he had and his old disruptive self. He is strong. He is powerful.”
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