The player some are calling the top prospect in the country in the 2018 class, defensive end Xavier Thomas of Wilson, will visit Saturday the program most consider the best in the country right now, Alabama.
Thomas also has South Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Georgia on his short list. He's expecting Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp and defensive line coach Lance Thompson at his game Thursday night along with Florida State defensive line coach Brad Lawing. Thomas said the Gamecocks have worked him the hardest but they've always had his heart.
"I grew up a Gamecock fan," he said. "They've got the new coaching staff and stuff. I believe they are going to bring in some good recruiting classes and get the Gamecocks back on track. They tell me I can come there and be the face of the defense and potentially be the face of the program if I keep working hard. Coach Muschamp likes to compare me to Dante Fowler Jr. He coached him at Florida."
He said he’s excited about the chance to check out the defending national champions in person.
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"I want to get a better relationship with the coaches and feel the environment and the fans," Thomas said. "And I want to tour the facilities and the campus and get a better feeling for Alabama. They want me for a 3-4 outside linebacker, sometimes standing up and coming off the edge and sometimes jumping into pass coverage which I'm actually doing now with my high school team. Alabama is Alabama. You can't really speak on too much about that."
Thomas said Clemson also is after him energetically and is selling him on a good plan.
"Coach Hobby compares me a lot Vic Beasley and I would come there and work off the edge," Thomas said. "Coach Swinney tells me I'm their one guy for 2018 and I can come there and be the face of the defense."
So, Thomas grew up a Gamecock fan, which means he couldn't have much love for Clemson, right? Well, he says not so when it comes to this recruiting battle.
"It really doesn't affect it too much," he said. "I've been a Gamecock fan and, of course, the rivalry is there. I didn't really favor Clemson at the time but I don't let that get in the way of the recruiting stuff. But I did where Gamecock stuff all the time. I favored Clowney and Lattimore."
Thomas plans to return to USC and Clemson this season. He's not sure when he'll go back to Columbia but he knows he'll be at Clemson for the USC game. He does not claim a favorite at this point. He has also visited Georgia for a game.
▪ OL Jerry Drake Jr. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has taken official visits to South Carolina and Tennessee and told Hale McGranahan of SEC Country he liked both visits equally. Drake said he's not sure if he'll take any more visits. He also has offers from Mississippi State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Alabama and Auburn.
▪ USC Tuesday night offered 2018 QB Justin Fields of Kennesaw, Ga. He has seen his offer list blow up over the past six weeks. Some of his other offers include North Carolina, Tennessee, Penn State, Nebraska, TCU, Virginia, Indiana, Louisville, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Arizona, Georgia Tech and Iowa State.
▪ USC commitment OL Dennis Daley of Georgia Military College will take his official visit this weekend.
▪ Clyde Trapp Jr., a 6-foot-4 guard from Lower Richland Tuesday night released a top 5 of South Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Charlotte and Rice. He will take his official visit to USC this weekend with Charlotte and Georgia Tech the following weekends. He was at Clemson unofficially last Saturday. The Tigers have not yet offered.