The Clemson Tigers are still getting acclimated to full pads, and for likely his final season, this moment in fall camp was always "put up" or "shut up" for defensive end Xavier Thomas.
"He's been incredibly focused since January," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "XT was in and out (during 2020) and not the best version of himself."
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables also spoke on Thomas' strides and watching Thomas in stints; he's been active in practice and vocal during media-viewed drills all of fall.
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"Three is noticeably better," Venables said Wednesday. "He's probably made the most improvement of anybody from where we were (at) to end the spring—no question about it. We're getting his best version, and that makes everybody else better because he's fast and explosive. He can do a lot when everything's going right for him."
"When everything's going right for him," has been the scenario Thomas' been working towards after starting his Clemson career with a bang as a reserve -- earning almost unanimous first-team Freshman All-American honors. Thomas racked 43 tackles in his best 2018 year and has only totaled 42 tackles in 2019 and 2020 combined. 2021 by all accounts is Thomas' last chance to make a big statement at Clemson.
"I'm excited to see X get out there and play," defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall said before fall camp. "Xavier has always been a special player. Just allowing him to do what he do man, and he's going to be great. There's no issues or anything like that, he's been focused and dialed in on where he needs to be. When we can get that version of Xavier Thomas, it's going to be awesome."
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