Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas was a five-star prospect out of high school and an instant impact rotation player as a freshman in 2018. But now he's seen yet another set back in his college career after a battle with COVID-19 has left him "nowhere near" where he needs to be physically for the season, according to coach Dabo Swinney.
"We've got to get him medically where he needs to be. He had a hard time when he got back with his breathing, COVID, strep throat, being a little heavy," Swinney said. "He lost from March to now and was not able to do what he needed to do to get himself ready to go."
Swinney explained Thursday that Thomas tested positive for COVID-19, had to quarantine and missed another extended period of time dealing with strep throat. Thomas picked up 10-12 pounds during the quarantine period and needs some time before he's in game shape.
"This is going to be a blessing for him in the long run and will allow him to reset," Swinney said. "I'm really proud of XT. A lot of maturity and self-awareness on his part."
Thanks to the four-game redshirt rule, Thomas could play later in the season when he works his way back to full health and game shape without jeopardizing a year of eligibility.
It's a disappointing development for Thomas, who missed three games with a concussion in 2019 and never really regained his footing after returning to action after earning Freshman All-America honors in his rookie year. Despite just eight starts, he still earned third team All-ACC honors with 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Thomas was expected to be in the mix for a starting defensive end position opposite Justin Foster. His absence opens the door for redshirt sophomore K.J. Henry (another former five-star prospect), Justin Mascoll, Greg Williams and true freshman Myles Murphy.