Today, 2018’s #1 DE signed his letter of intent and is officially headed to Clemson. And while Xavier Thomas has now been committed to the Tigers for months, his recruitment wasn’t always a sure thing.
Thomas’ college decision came down to Clemson and South Carolina, and it was a closer race than one might expect, with Thomas even saying that he would’ve committed to the Gamecocks if South Carolina’s success hadn’t fallen apart in recent years. At the height of the battle, it seemed like the race for Thomas was destined to go deep into the season, maybe even coming down to the Palmetto Bowl.
But instead, Thomas blindsided the recruiting world by announcing his commitment to Clemson in April, effectively ending his recruitment then and there. Credit has to go to his primary recruiter Danny Pearman as well as new DL coach Todd Bates for their work here.
He rapidly became one of Clemson’s star recruiters, pushing for other highly touted recruits to join him. One of those recruits, 2018 5 star DE KJ Henry, announces his decision today and all signs point to him joining Thomas at Clemson.
On the field, Thomas is a monster. Standing 6’3” and weighing in at 263 he has all the size needed to be an instant contributor to a DL that has dealt with significant turnover the last few years. He doesn’t quite have the length that someone like 6’5” Clelin Ferrell has, but Thomas’ speed off the line is second to none. He dazzled earlier this year at The Opening when he flattened 2019’s #1 OT Devontae Dobbs:
Thomas ranks as the #1 DE, #1 defensive player, and #3 overall player in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports Composite Rating. With a composite grade of 0.9990, he is bested only by fellow Clemson signee Trevor Lawrence and Georgia signee Justin Fields.
I have wanted to write these couple of paragraphs for a year now. Last year Xavier Thomas was rated highly based on potential and showing out in camps. He hadn’t shown it on the field. I only hinted at this in his junior year, saying Trevor Lawrence undoubtedly deserved the top billing in the class when ESPN moved him to number one overall.
Xavier Thomas has blossomed during his senior year. He put in the hard work and rose to the challenge of playing some of the best competition in the country and he met every challenge. For the most part he dominated his competition. He learned to get off blocks, to play within a defensive scheme, and work at an elite level.
He has gone from a player with raw athleticism and some intriguing tools and developing pass rush moves to a product ready for major college football action. I’m excited to see his college career unfold. He is the third overall player in this class (I think number two overall personally) and not because of potential.
His motor is now seen as a plus. He chases plays down from the backside. He has power and speed. He is only 6’3 and doesn’t have the crazy wingspan of other pass rushers (like a KJ Henry), but he has elite agility and a legit bull rush. He has gotten very good at dipping his shoulder and blowing by offensive lineman. He is listed as a strongside defensive end, but I think he could wind up playing either side because his burst is that good. He holds up against the run decently and delivers a blow at the point of contact.
He committed an entire year ago and hasn’t really wavered in his commitment. Many expected there would be drama to this recruitment, especially considering that most 5* players have some degree of drama, but XT has been one of the leaders in this class.
I expect Xavier Thomas to land in the two deep very quickly, see the field as a true freshman, and eventually become a first round draft choice. This is an impact signing and keeps Clemson’s defensive line stocked with elite level talent.