He y’all, I’ve got bad news and some potential decent news
First, the bad news
I’m sure you’ve already heard, but just in case STS is your sole source for Clemson news, per Coach Swinney, Xavier Thomas will not be physically ready to play for the majority of the 2020 football season.
According to an article by Matt Connolly in The State (article here), Xavier has battled both COVID-19 and strep throat and has been out of commission since March. Subsequently, he won’t be ready to play football in September.
First and foremost, as much as I care about Clemson football, it’s nothing compared to Xavier’s health. The main story is a young man fighting through what sounds like a nasty and prolonged illness. Being sick for 6 months is no joke, and both COVID-19 and strep throat have potential long-term ramifications. My best friend had to have his heart valves replaced in his early 30s because of a lingering case of strep that set up shop in his heart. It’s no joke. Before we get to the football side of things, if you’re so inclined, throw up a prayer for XT and his health tonight.
Now the Potential Good News
With the new redshirt rule in place, Xavier isn’t technically out for the season. When he recovers his health, he can still play in 4 games and redshirt. This would obviously be at the tail end of the season, and the games he could potentially play in will be dictated by how college football chooses to end the season this year. In previous years, Dabo would save him for South Carolina, The ACC Championship, and the CFP, but this isn’t previous years. Anyway, to make a long story short, if you see him, it will most likely be in the last 4 games of the season, whatever those games may happen to be.
Next Man Up
Dabo says that they are treating this like an injury. In football terms, that means next man up, and the next man, according to the newly released Clemson depth chart, is former 5* recruit KJ Henry. If you’re going to lose a guy like Xavier, having another all-world talent to fall back on is comforting.
KJ needed to add some bulk to his long frame coming out of high school, and took a redshirt his first year on campus. Last season he played in 11 games, recorded 23 tackles (4.5 TFL), 2 sacks and batted down 3 passes. That experience should serve him well as he presumably steps into a starting role as RS Sophomore. KJ was going to feature prominently in the 2020 defensive game plan either way.
In addition to KJ, be on the lookout for Justin Mascoll and Myles Murphy to help hold down the fort until XT’s triumphant return. Mascoll, a former 4* recruit, redshirted in 2018, and recorded 16 tackles last year in reserve duty last season. Murphy is a 5* monster from the 2020 class who was rated as the best strong side defensive end in the nation and the 7th best recruit overall.
Justin Foster led the defensive end position in sacks last season and will start opposite of KJ. Needless to say, even without XT, Clemson should be fine at the defensive end position.
Bigger Than Football
This is a sports blog, so I’m obligated to talk about the on field impact, but as I mentioned, that’s not particularly important in the grand scheme of things.
Get well soon, XT. Hope to see you crushing QBs in the near future.