The last piece of the puzzle appears to be in place.
Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas is returning for his fourth season with the Tigers, giving Brent Venables' side of the ball 11 starters back and an experienced sack artist.
Thomas finished 2020 with 3.5 sacks and four tackles for a loss in seven. He missed the first three games of the season as he worked his way back from COVID-19 and strep throat and then ACC Championship Game and Sugar Bowl for unspecified reasons.
When healthy and on the field, Thomas is a fast, strong edge rusher who should be utilized much more in 2021.
Explosive edge rusher who made an immediate impact as a reserve in 2018, earning near-unanimous Freshman All-American acclaim … enters 2021 credited with 85 career tackles (22.5 for loss), 9.0 sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 857 snaps over 34 games (nine starts).
2020: Initially intended to play only four games in 2020 and redshirt after complications with COVID-19 and strep throat, but ended up playing seven games upon the NCAA’s blanket eligibility waiver for 2020 … credited with 11 tackles (4.0 for loss), 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in only 119 snaps over seven games (one start) … made season debut vs. No. 7 Miami … added three tackles (0.5 for loss) at Georgia Tech … recorded three tackles including his first sack of the season vs. Syracuse … added a sack vs. Boston College, giving him a full sack in back-to-back games for the first time in his career … made one tackle at No. 4 Notre Dame … forced a fumble on a sack vs. Pitt … had a half-sack among his two tackles at Virginia Tech.
2019: Third-team All-ACC selection … 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) … recorded four tackles (1.5 for loss) with a half-sack vs. Georgia Tech … added two tackles including a half-sack vs. No. 12 Texas A&M … made three tackles, including his first full sack of the season, at Syracuse … contributed two tackles (one for loss) vs. Charlotte … added five tackles and contributed to the game-winning stop on a two-point conversion attempt at North Carolina … made one tackle and rushed for one yard on his first career rushing attempt vs. Florida State … recorded a tackle and a fumble recovery at NC State … posted two tackles, both for loss, vs. Wake Forest … notched three tackles and a pass breakup vs. No. 22 Virginia in the ACC Championship Game … registered six tackles (1.5 for loss) in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 2 Ohio State … added two tackles vs. No. 1 LSU.
2018: Credited with 43 tackles (10.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups in 304 snaps over 15 games … first-team Freshman All-America selection by USA Today, ESPN.com, The Athletic and 247Sports … made debut with three tackles (including one for loss) against Furman … recorded first career sack vs. Georgia Southern … collected team co-special teams player of the week honors against Georgia Tech after a devastating hit on the Yellow Jackets’ only kickoff return of the day … helped seal a comeback win against Syracuse, recording a highlight-reel sack and applying pressure throughout Syracuse’s final desperation drive … recorded two tackles for loss among his four total tackles at Wake Forest … made five tackles, including 2.5 for loss, in only 25 snaps vs. No. 16 NC State … collected two tackles for loss with one sack among his three tackles at Florida State … added four tackles vs. Louisville … contributed four tackles at No. 17 Boston College … added three tackles vs. Duke … made one tackle vs. South Carolina … registered three tackles and a pass breakup in ACC Championship Game against Pitt … made two tackles including an assisted tackle for loss vs. No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl … contributed three tackles including a half-sack in the National Championship Game vs. No. 1 Alabama.
Before Clemson: No. 3 player in the nation by 247Sports, No. 4 player by ESPN and No. 5 player by PrepStars and Rivals … No. 1 defensive end in the nation by 247Sports, ESPN, PrepStars and Rivals … No. 1 player in Florida by 247Sports, ESPN, PrepStars and Rivals … Anthony Munoz national lineman-of-the-year … U.S. Army All-American Game participant … played at IMG (Fla.) Academy as a senior after playing three seasons at Wilson High School (Florence, S.C.) … helped IMG Academy to a 9-0 record and No. 2 national ranking by MaxPreps as a senior … USA Today National Defensive Player-of-the-Year finalist … invited to Nike’s The Opening in 2017 … had 34 tackles and eight tackles for loss as a senior … had 70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks as a sophomore … had 568 yards and eight touchdowns on 59 carries as a sophomore … had 59 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 21 quarterback pressures as a freshman … teammate of fellow Tiger signee Mike Jones Jr. … coached by Kevin Wright at IMG Academy High School … enrolled at Clemson in January 2018 … recruited by Todd Bates, Danny Pearman and Brent Venables.