Xavier Thomas destroys a 5-star, steals the show at The Opening


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Xavier Thomas (left) and K.J. Henry talk Saturday
Xavier Thomas (left) and K.J. Henry talk Saturday

BEAVERTON, OR – Xavier Thomas and Trevor Lawrence are generally regarded as top players in the country for the 2018 recruiting cycle, and a few days at Nike’s The Opening have done nothing to dispel that notion. Especially after Thomas wreaked havoc on a bevy of 5-star offensive linemen during the early part of the training camp showcase.

Thomas also won one of the individual competitions – the powerball throw. Players get on their knees and toss a six-pound ball from their chest. Thomas won the competition with a throw of 47 feet, but he wasn’t done with that.

Thomas made the signature play of the day on a speed rush against 5-star OT Devontae Dobbs.

Thomas, a 5-star Clemson pledge from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy exploded off the line, got his hands under Dobbs’ arms, put his hands’ in the middle of Dobbs’ chest and casually tossed Dobbs about five feet towards the quarterback cone.

The play drew roars of approval from the defensive linemen standing on one end of the field, and a chorus of boos from the offensive linemen. Thomas put his hands on his hips and walked back toward his group like nothing had happened.

Keep in mind, Dobbs is no slouch. He’s rated as a 5-star and is listed by 247 as the number one offensive tackle in the nation for the 2019 class. However, he wasn’t the only one abused by Thomas, who took turns blowing past anyone and everyone put in his way. He’s just one of those guys that look unblockable. He can beat you with speed or he can beat you with power and strength. Doesn’t matter.

That brings us to K.J. Henry, a Clemson target out of Clemmons (NC) West Forsyth. The 6-foot-5, 234-pound weak-side defensive end lined up wide of the line, stayed low and blew past offensive linemen with quickness and an impressive shoulder lean. He gets low when he has to and has the strength to disengage from a block. I asked Henry earlier in the day what it would be like to play on the same line as Thomas, and he broke into a huge grin.

“That would be amazing. We talk about it all the time,” Henry said. “He’s a great player, and we will push each other out here, and if we were on the same team we would push each other. It would be a race to the quarterback.”

*Five-star offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer was another one that impressed. Salyer told me before the event that his visit to Clemson’s campus last month was better than expected. I asked about his reported top two of Clemson and Georgia, and he told me he feels like that’s inaccurate and that he has a top seven. However, when I pushed him on the difference between Georgia and Clemson, he told me that “at Clemson you can win a championship. That’s big.”

Salyer has great feet, and as long as he got the jump on the defensive lineman he was dominant.

*Another “big” target we watched was 5-star OL Jackson Carman. He’s a lot bigger than I thought, and he moves really well for a big guy. One of the coaches looked at Carman and said, “You are a big human being. All you have to do is move a little.”

Carman went up against anybody and everybody and held his own, but he showed value to his Opening team by acting as the anchor on the tug-of-war team that won the event. During the final tug-of-war event, he practically laid down on the field and used his legs to push himself backwards. Dude is strong.

*Trey Hill had good moments and he had a few times where I saw him struggle. He worked out at guard Saturday (even though I can see him moving to center in college), and once he settled in he more than held his own. Some of the quicker defensive tackles were a problem for him early, but he wound up winning all of his late reps so it was nice to see him rebound from the tough start.





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