The talent has always been there for Xavier Thomas, and he has shown flashes of his immense potential at times throughout his first three seasons at Clemson, especially during his freshman All-American season in 2018.
However, injuries during his sophomore season, followed by COVID issues among other things during his junior year, have knocked the defensive end’s career course off track to a certain extent.
“He’s just been snakebit a little bit from that standpoint,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said following Wednesday’s practice. “But when he’s been out there, I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to bring to the table.”
It has been a similar story this spring for Thomas, who has been limited some in spring practice but performed well when he has been on the field.
“He had some protocol things going on early and had a little shoulder banged up as well,” Venables said. “So, he hasn’t had as many reps as some of the other guys. But when he’s been in there, I’ve been really pleased with things that he’s done.”
A former five-star prospect and the nation’s top-ranked defensive end coming out of high school, Thomas tallied 43 tackles, 10.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks while earning near-unanimous freshman All-American acclaim in 2018. In two seasons since then, the Florence, S.C., native has totaled 42 tackles, 12 for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Venables said this spring, he and Thomas have dusted off film from his freshman year to help the 6-foot-2, 270-pounder get back to being the player he showed he can be that season.
“We’re looking at some teach video, some teach tapes from an installation standpoint here and just pulling up some stuff, how he played and where he was weight wise and all that as a freshman,” Venables said. “So, we’re working hard at trying to get him back there because that version is really good, really special.”
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