Why Xavier Thomas has one of ‘biggest projections’ among edge rushers in 2022

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Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently ranked the top 25 edge rushers in the country ahead of the 2022 season, and Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas cracked the top ten.

With his previous production and potential in mind, PFF ranked Thomas as the tenth-best edge rusher in the nation, slightly ahead of his teammate, Myles Murphy, who came in at No. 9.

Entering his fifth season with the Tigers, Thomas could be primed for his most productive year yet as a part of one of, what many expect to be, one of the nation’s top defensive fronts.

Thomas finished 2021 with 21 total tackles (6.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, earning a Third-Team All-ACC selection.

As for PFF’s Anthony Treash, he believes Thomas has one of the “biggest projections” among all defensive ends in college football.

A long battle with COVID-19 disrupted Thomas’ 2020 junior year, but he still managed to play 119 snaps in what was supposed to be a bounce-back season after a sophomore slump in 2019. The 2018 No. 3 overall recruit went from an 83.4 PFF grade as a freshman to a 69.8 mark the year after. Thomas got back on the right track this past season, earning a 76.7 pass-rush grade and 18.7% pass-rush win rate — 11th and fourth, respectively, among returning Power Five edge defenders. What’s most encouraging about his performance this past season is his true pass-rush grade was nearly 25 grading points higher than the last time we saw him consistently on the field in 2019.

PFF isn’t the only source projecting high results from the fifth-year defensive end, as Clemson defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall detailed the value Thomas brings as an experienced player.

“Anytime you get a chance to get Xavier Thomas back, it’s a big deal,” Hall said on July 19. “When he said he was coming back, I was fired up. Obviously, a guy with that kind of experience and athleticism, he’s eager to prove a lot of people wrong. We all know what he can do; it’s just a matter of now going out there and executing.”

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Story originally appeared on Clemson Wire