Earlier this week, Xavier Thomas reported on one of his Instagram stories that it felt great to be back to his old self again. The Clemson defensive end indicated he is fully healthy, and it appears he is ready for the 2021 football season.
This is great news for the Tigers, who many consider to already have one of the best defensive fronts in college football. But a completely healthy Xavier Thomas might take them over the top.
As a freshman in 2018, Xavier Thomas came flying out of the gate. Though he was the young guy on a defensive line that had the Power Rangers, the Florence, S.C., native held his own.
Thomas made a name for himself, proving his lofty status as a top 3 national recruit was valid. He had a career-high 43 tackles during his freshman year, including 10.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which is also a career best. Of those 10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 were sacks, another career mark.
Thomas is best remembered for his hit on Syracuse’s Eric Dungy in the final moments of the 2018 game, as he de-cleated the quarterback to seal the Tigers’ come-from-behind victory at Death Valley.
The future looked bright for Thomas, who was named a first-team Freshman All-American in 2018.
However, injuries during his sophomore season followed by COVID issues among other things during his junior year derailed Thomas’ course. The 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive end still has the explosion and power that separate him from most, but since his freshman year he has not been able to consistently show it.
“He was consistently inconsistent last year. For all kind of reasons,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said this past spring. “The biggest thing was just probably his availability.”
In each of the last two seasons Thomas’ production has dropped, while missing a combined eight games. However, his talent is still there, and it flashed from time-to-time last season.
But Thomas missed five games in 2020, three due to complications from COVID-19 and strep throat in the off-season which knocked him off his training schedule and forced him to miss most all of fall camp. He also missed the ACC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl for undisclosed reasons, causing fans and media to speculate whether he was going to return to Clemson for his senior year.
But Thomas did return. Swinney reported he is seeing a different player than the one he has seen in the previous years … a more consistent one. Thomas’ Instagram post indicates he is finally getting back to where he was once was.
“He has been here every day. He has been very consistent,” the Clemson coach said. “That is all we need. I am excited for him to hopefully finish up strong and really be able to have the type of off-season that he needs to have and wants to have. If he does that, then that is going to be good news for Clemson.”
And so far, the news is good.
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