Trying to navigate back towards the freshman version of himself has been a goal of Clemson's Xavier Thomas for multiple seasons now.
Now a senior, defensive coordinator Brent Venables believes Thomas is as close to that horizon since it was a reality during the Tigers' 2018 national championship season.
"(Thomas) had some protocol things go on early, had a little shoulder banged up as well," Venables said. "So, hadn't had as many reps as some of the other guys, but when he's been in there, been really pleased with the things that he's done."
Playing alongside the massively improved Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis on the inside and having a full spring jump on edge competition K.J. Henry has to be a plus. Still, the key has been his 'availability,' according to head coach Dabo Swinney.
Showing signs of improvement in the spring game, Thomas sacked D.J. Uiagalelei on third down and long with under two minutes left, leaving the Orange team to try to convert on a long 4th and 16, ultimately ending in a dropped pass by Ngata and sealing the win for the White team 14-13. Finishing the game with a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, Thomas can taste the Freshman All-American version of himself once again heading into summer and fall.
"We're looking at some teach videos, some teach tapes from an installation standpoint here, and boy, just pulling up some stuff on how he played and where (Thomas) was weight wise and all that as a freshman," Venables said.
"We're working hard at trying to get him back there because that version is really good, really special. He's just been snake bit a little bit from that standpoint, but you know when he's been out there, I've been pleased with what he's been able to bring to the table."
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