Xavier Thomas was basically a household name in college football circles long before he ever played his first collegiate snap.
Thomas arrived at Clemson as part of a star-studded 2018 recruiting class as a five star player that most already had penciled in as a first round NFL Draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
However, when draft day rolls around, Thomas will not hear his name called. He will have just wrapped up his fourth spring practice at Clemson, something many thought inconceivable three short years ago.
Thomas, who is often referred to as “XT,” burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2018. The pass rusher’s raw talent wowed fans instantaneously, as he finished the season with 43 tackles, 10.5 TFL, and 3.5 sacks in a reserve role.
When the 2019 season began, Thomas was inserted into the starting lineup and it was expected he would pick right up where he left off as a freshman. Things did not quite play out that way, though.
The Tigers used a lot of 3-man fronts during Thomas’ sophomore season, a scheme that didn’t really play to his strengths, leading to some struggles. It would be a frustrating season for the talented defensive end as he finished with just three sacks, but was still named third team All-ACC.
Then came the 2020 season, and Thomas still couldn’t catch a break. Not only did he test positive for COVID in the spring, he came down with strep throat shortly thereafter, which prevented Thomas from staying in playing shape. He was able to get on the field for seven games, but never seemed to fully settle in.
Now he is preparing for one more go around with the Tigers, and the rising senior is hopeful that this is finally the season it all comes together for him. Head coach Dabo Swinney said after Monday’s practice that just having Thomas available every day has made a noticeable difference.
“He’s been consistent, you know, he’s been available,” Swinney said. “And that’s been awesome.”
Swinney says the defensive end from Florence has been engaged and is in great shape physically, but at the same time said he’s still working to get back into peak shape, and he fully expects Thomas will be by the time the season rolls around.
“He’s been very very consistent, he’s been very engaged,” Swinney said. “You know, he’s feeling good about his conditioning and where he is. Still got some work to do between now and August but I like I like his mindset. You know, he shows up every day, he’s got goals, and he’s keeping them in front of his mind, which I like, so he’s been good.”