Clemson football: Xavier Thomas will be the defensive catalyst in 2020

Xavier Thomas Clemson Tigers
Xavier Thomas Clemson Tigers /

Clemson football defensive Xavier Thomas needs to have a bounce-back year in 2020.

The 2019 college football season was a tough one for Clemson football standout Xavier Thomas. He came into the season with a lot of heavy expectations based upon his limited playing time as a freshman in 2018.

A concussion during practice the week of the Louisville game last season caused him to miss three games for the Tigers.

The 2019 pre-season All-American pick had just (8) tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks during his sophomore campaign, a slight drop from the production the saw as a backup to first-round selection Clelin Ferrell in 2018.

For Clemson football to run the table again in 2020 and win their third national title in five years, Thomas is going to have to be the guy that he displayed as a five-star recruit coming out of high school and showed flashes of back in 2018.

Many expect this to be Xavier Thomas’s last year at Clemson and in order for him to realize his potential and be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, he has to be more productive and consistently be the player that Clemson needs him to be.

At just 6-2 and 260 pounds, he is undersized at his position according to NFL scouts, but his speed and athleticism more than makeup for the lack of prototypical size. We did not see a lot of that speed and athleticism in 2019.

He was a non-factor in five of his last seven games last season and the Tigers cannot afford to have him disappear for long stretches like that here in 2020.

Thomas has the potential to take over games and lead the Tigers in a way that we have not seen in quite some time. He has the talent to record more than 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in a season like we have seen Ferrell, Shaw Lawson, Vic Beasley, and Kevin Dodd do at his same position over the last six seasons.

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There are a lot of expectations for Clemson football in 2020 and if the Tigers are going to continue to be the defense they have been under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, dominating every opponent, it will start upfront with Xavier Thomas leading the way.