Venables says Xavier Thomas is "on his way" to being great

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Xavier Thomas blasts the Syracuse quarterback last season
Xavier Thomas blasts the Syracuse quarterback last season

CLEMSON – Xavier Thomas is on his way to being great. But he has to keep grinding.

Thomas is the sophomore edge rusher who made an immediate impact as a reserve in 2018, earning near-unanimous Freshman All-American acclaim. Thomas enters 2019 credited with 43 tackles (10.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups in 304 snaps over 15 games in 2018. Thomas has been selected as a second-team Preseason All-American for 2019 by both Phil Steele and Athlon.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables told the media following Saturday’s scrimmage that if Thomas wants to be great, he has to bring it every play. If Thomas does that, it will prove he’s on his way to being great.

“He's made some real improvement and we're looking for another step in transition and improving. Xavier has really had some good moments in camp and he's gotten better, but he will be the first one to tell you he's not where he wants to be,” Venables said. “You gotta bring it every play. Whatever that looks like, you have to do it to be a good player.

“If I am calling you a good player, that is not a casual word to me. A good player? Oh, he must be pretty good. A great player is a whole other level. The difference between good and great isn't much in some ways, but it's a lot. To the naked eye, it's different. There are very few great players. He has the ability to be a great player and I think he is on his way if he keeps grinding.”

Venables agreed that Thomas is great at rushing the quarterback, but there’s more to playing defensive end than sacks.

“It's just doing the little things great. What does that look like and what does that mean? Sometimes it's just knowing what you are supposed to do. If I know I am supposed to be in that inside half of that A gap, then I am getting on the inside half because somebody is on the outside half,” Venables said. “Not just because it sounds good. But somebody is going to be on the outside. If I get in the outside half I am going to be in their way. Little things like that. Just to really understand it's a totality of that. Don't try to do too much. Just do your job and do it really, really well.”

Venables was asked if Logan Rudolph has edged ahead of Thomas and he said he has five guys he thinks will be co-starters.

“In knowledge, probably. But Logan has been in the system longer,” he said. “We have a group of four or five of them that I think are going to be co-starters when it's all said and done. That is my expectation and my anticipation. Xavier was out there with the ones for a lot of snaps today, but he was also out there with the second group. We are just rotating guys.”

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