Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas is returning to Clemson for another season, The Clemson Insider learned on Monday.
Clemson Football confirmed Thomas’ decision on its official Twitter account moments later.
"Hello, No. 3!"
And welcome back for 2021, No. 3. pic.twitter.com/mtiDPImnwh
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) January 18, 2021
The 2020 season was a tough year for Thomas.
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.
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.
Against Syracuse, Thomas recorded two tackles, including one sack in the Tigers’ 47-21 victory at Death Valley.
Thomas missed the ACC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl for what Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said were due to “protocol reasons.”
In all, Thomas played in seven games. He recorded nine tackles, four of which were tackles for loss and 3.5 of those were sacks. He also was credited with forcing a fumble.
Thomas has 85 career tackles (22.5 for loss), 9.0 sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 857 snaps over 34 games (nine starts).
With Thomas’ return, Clemson returns all 11 starters from last year’s defense, plus himself and Justin Foster at defensive end. They both started for the Tigers in 2019 before injuries and illness derailed their 2020 season.
It also gives Clemson 23 players in the last two years that have started on defense at some point.
Thomas is the fourth draft eligible defensive player since the end of the season to announce his return to school. Linebacker James Skalski announced his return on Jan. 7. Cornerback Derion Kendrick followed on Jan. 11, and then safety Nolan Turner announced his return on Sunday night.