Swinney says Xavier Thomas is headed to a "whole other level"


by - Senior Writer -
Xavier Thomas has impressed Swinney with his work ethic this spring.
Xavier Thomas has impressed Swinney with his work ethic this spring.

CLEMSON – Xavier Thomas just needs to be consistent.

Thomas, the rising junior defensive end out of Florence, emerged as a defensive playmaker during his freshman campaign when he registered 43 tackles (10.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups in 304 snaps over 15 games. Those numbers all dipped last season, despite Thomas starting eight games.

In 2019, Thomas was credited with 31 tackles (8.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 434 snaps in 12 games (eight starts). He missed time during the middle of the season with a concussion suffered in practice, and with Brent Venables’ defense structured around the versatility of Isaiah Simmons, Thomas’ numbers took a slight tumble.

What does he need to do in 2020? According to head coach Dabo Swinney, it’s all about consistency.

“Consistency in everything he does, and he is off to a great start. I love the look in his eye,” Swinney said. “I like his focus and his demeanor. He is just more mature. Sometimes you have to be exposed a little bit and understand what you don't know. Some of these guys, they have all of these tools and they certainly look the part, but you have to understand that they are just young people. And then you have high expectations and all of these external factors and so forth, and we forget that they are just young people.”

Swinney said last year was a learning experience for Thomas.

“As a freshman, he was just kind of running around, happy go lucky, and not a lot of pressure on him because Austin (Bryant) is there a Cle (Clelin Ferrell) is there and they kind of have him like this (under their wing) and he is just running around and having some fun,” Swinney said. “And last year, he is in a different role. And then he gets banged up and he gets exposed a little bit. He has to mature and learn how to be a complete player and not just an athlete. Not just a strong guy. Be a complete player. And then got hurt and that set him back. But he did a lot of good things.”

Thomas has plenty of room to grow.

“But there is a whole other level. It's not a theory on whether he can be a great player. but he is just progressing,” Swinney said. “You think to Andre Branch. It took him a while. Vic Beasley, he didn't start a game here until his fourth year. Xavier Thomas is a million times ahead of where Vic Beasley was. We just forget and sometimes these guys have such unrealistic expectations on them and it's a hard game and there is a lot to learn. But I am super proud of him. He has taken ownership of what he needs to do to get better and he's practicing hard and he's doing well.”

Swinney then said that freshman Myles Murphy has turned more than one head in camp, but his ahead of Thomas at the same in their careers.

“You throw Myles Murphy in there, who is kind of like X when he first got here, you just can't help but notice him athletically,” Swinney said. “But he has a great foundation as a football player. X didn't have a great foundation as a football player coming in here. And he figured that out. He is self-aware of that. He has really built a good foundation and I think he is ready to step in and be a more consistent player.”

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