Let us break the Internet folks.
Xavier Thomas (6’3 260 pounds) and the number one overall DE in the class (some have as the number one overall player) has shocked the recruiting world and Gamecock fans everywhere and committed to the Clemson Tigers.
This is truly monumental.
WHAT DOES CLEMSON GET
Better. This is National Champion caliber recruiting...
One of the premiere strongside defensive ends who can play the run or the pass. He absolutely blew up last year after dominating in camp settings. He chose to stay in South Carolina for his junior season, but ultimately decided to go to IMG Academy for his upcoming senior year. He doesn’t have the length of someone like DE KJ Henry, but he has a rare blend of size and speed. Elite speed at defensive end. He doesn’t get reached by offensive tackles because in camps he has elite quickness to shed blocks and maneuver. Now he needs to do this more consistently in games to be the number two overall player—he knows this. But he has first round, top pick kind of a ceiling and tools to work with.
Clemson also gets an ace recruiter. Xavier and Mike Thomas?? All the top recruits in the nation are paying close attention to this move. Zamir White will give Clemson another look with this commitment. Jackson Carman was just given another reason to keep Clemson at the top of his list. Salyer, Hill (who is visiting and is not wrapped up to the Dawgs—Auburn is actually the big competition and getting him to the Spring game is huge for Clemson), and down the line. This also ends Muschamps in-state recruiting momentum and narrative. Stops it dead in its misleading tracks.
While Xavier was always impressionable on the recruiting trail, that should never be taken as a negative. It should be seen as the normal process of a high school athlete being courted by every major college program in the nation. It should be seen as normal when ESPN and companies like Under Armour and the United States Army come courting your favor. He was offered and recruited by everybody.
My point is that Gamecock fans (and even Clemson fans during the process) should stop calling recruits essentially ‘drama queens’ or hold it against recruits doing their due diligence. In fact, Xavier narrowed his recruitment down to the in-state schools despite enormous pressure. He also went to both South Carolina and Clemson ample amounts of time and visits to really feel both programs out. He was extremely mature throughout the process when you take a step back. He announced with a tweet through his Dad’s account and minimal drama. He committed before the summer to help recruit others to Clemson.
At South Carolina the draw was being the face of the program and being the one to lead the Gamecocks back to the promised land (they have never known). Muschamp and his staff pulled every trick in their book. Thomas was thought to be waiting for the Gamecocks season to see the progress on the field.
But this recruitment started to turn when Thomas went to IMG. That pried away some of the overly undue Gamecock influence and opened things up for Thomas. Xavier visited Clemson as one of the first recruits to see the brand new facility and, as I stated after that visit, Clemson had a slim lead after the visit. Publicly the recruitment swayed back and forth between Clemson and USCjr, but privately Clemson held a small advantage. The USC Spring game did little to curry favor with Thomas or his family. In fact, the game backfired because the product on the field and the lack of fan support didn’t leave a favorable impression.
I had no idea that the commitment would be this early (I was writing some last night but thought I would have until the evening on this one...). I thought earlier this week that this was going to be a silent commit, but that turned out to be incorrect. I don’t think Muschamp is going to stop here. I don’t think USCjr boosters are going to stop, to be frank. But I don’t have any reason to doubt Xavier’s commitment other than his being impressionable early in his recruitment, and that isn’t fair. I do not doubt this coaching staff and their ability to keep a recruit, however. Dabo Swinney gets credit on this recruitment along with the entire staff. Todd Bates should receive special recognition though. He helped push the needle just a bit more towards Clemson with his connection to Thomas.
Most important—this is a huge upset for the Gamecocks and stunts any hope of progress they imagined for themselves.
Soak in all those Gamecock tears...all of them...