Xavier Thomas is the highest profile recruit Clemson signed for its defensive line for the class of 2018, but the Tigers signed four other defensive linemen with impressive resumes as well.
Thomas, who is rated as the No. 3 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite rankings, has been described as perhaps the best defensive line prospect since Jadeveon Clowney.
Clemson added another five-star recruit in defensive end K.J. Henry, while defensive tackle Josh Belk and defensive end Justin Mascoll are rated as top-150 prospects. Defensive tackle Darnell Jefferies is a three-star prospect and is rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle in the nation.
“We signed five defensive linemen. You’d be hard-pressed to find five better in the country,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “Three of the best young defensive ends I’ve ever been around, and two of the best defensive tackles. Justin Mascoll, K.J. and Xavier Thomas, these guys are going to be fun to coach. Four of them are already here.”
Thomas, Henry, Mascoll and Belk are on campus at Clemson and already have started to impress.
Belk, who played at Lewisville High, recorded 116 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles during his senior season before going to the Army All-American Game and continuing to shine.
“Josh Belk, not many people knew about Josh Belk, and I think he went out to the Army game with all the big boys and they figured out who he was pretty quick,” Swinney said.
Jefferies, the lowest rated defensive lineman that Clemson signed, had 65 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a senior in 11 games. Swinney believes the Georgia native has a bright future.
“Darnell Jefferies looks like he’s 35. It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to believe this is a young high school senior going through spring ball, just physically how developed these D-linemen are,” Swinney said. “But that’s where championship football starts in the trenches, and we certainly were able to do that.”