BEAVERTON, Ore. — Xavier Thomas knows a winning hand when he sees one. The IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) defensive end from Florence, S.C., considered the No. 2 prospect in the 2018 class, committed to Clemson in April.
He cites the family atmosphere at Clemson, that defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been recruiting him since he was in the ninth grade, and oh yeah, that national championship thing.
“I wanted them to win,” Thomas said. “It didn’t play that much of a role in it, but it did play a role. Who wouldn’t want to play for a defending national champion? I do use that when I’m pitching other recruits. I’ll ask them, do you want to win a natty?”
Just like last season, Clemson won’t have a large class because the Tigers don’t have a lot of spots available. Recruiting rankings are largely based on quantity, so Clemson’s 2018 class is way down the list, between the No. 16 to No. 20 class, depending on the recruiting service.
“It’s going to be a small class, but there are a lot of things that go into it,” Clemson recruiting coordinator and quarterback coach Brandon Streeter told Gannett partner Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail. “We have a feel that it could be as low as 10 or 11, (as high as) 15 or 16.”
However, the quality of the Tigers’ class stands out. They have the No. 1 player in Cartersville (Ga.) quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 2 recruit in Thomas and seven of their 11 commits are ranked as four-star recruits or better by 247Sports.
Not coincidentally, with the exception of Lawrence, all of the commits came after the national championship. The latest commit was four-star defensive back Kyler McMichael from Greater Atlanta Christian (Norcross, Ga.), who committed to Clemson a week before he flew out to The Opening.
With so few spots available, Clemson can afford the soft-sell approach favored by Lawrence with other elite players here at Nike’s The Opening.
“Recruiting is crazy,” Lawrence said. “I’m glad I know where I’m going. I don’t try to talk to other guys here too much about Clemson. A few of them will go to Clemson, at least I hope so. (Clemson) has done really well, so that helps a lot.
“I think I can help with receivers and O linemen who want to play for a good quarterback they can get along with. So, I try to be obviously cool to them and build a good relationship and then try to do my best while I’m out here to perform.”
Among the top uncommitted players here, most of them at least have an offer from Clemson.
As for Thomas, he’s trying to improve the competition he’ll be facing the next few years in practice.
“I’m talking with Jackson Carman (the No. 12 overall recruit from Fairfield, Ohio) and Jamaree Syler (the No. 9 recruit from Pace Academy in Atlanta), two really great offensive linemen,” Thomas said. “I want them to come here to see it’s a special place.”
Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) wide receiver Jordyn Adams chose North Carolina over Clemson on Monday. Considering that the baseball-football star is the son of North Carolina defensive line coach Deke Adams, that Clemson was even in the mix speaks volumes about what winning a national title means.