USA Today Sports Images

Clemson starting defensive end Xavier Thomas sustained a foot injury over the weekend that will sideline him for up to six weeks, Tigers defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin confirmed Monday. The injury, which will require surgery, puts Thomas on a timeline to return around late September when ACC play begins heating up for the fourth-ranked Tigers. 

"Unfortunate setback, but he's got the right mindset and he'll respond, [we'll] get him back early in the year," Goodwin told the Associated Press

Thomas ranks among Clemson's best overall players and is a two-time All-ACC selection on the defensive line. He posted 21 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2021. Overall, he has 27 tackles for loss and 13 sacks to his name in his collegiate career. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas opted to return for his NCAA-granted fifth year of eligibility. 

"Small thing to a GIANT," Thomas tweeted on Aug. 13 following the injury. "The work does not stop! I'll be right back. God got the kid." 

The team hopes that Thomas will return in time for the Tigers' game against No. 22 Wake Forest on Sept. 24. If Thomas sticks to that timeline, he will only miss games against Georgia Tech, Furman and Louisiana Tech. However, things get tougher from there with matchups against No. 22 Wake Forest, No. 13 NC State, Boston College and Florida State in successive weeks. 

While losing Thomas is a blow to the Tigers, defensive line is a massive position of strength. Returners Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy are All-America candidates at defensive tackle and defensive end, respectively. Additionally, backup Justin Mascoll has 43 tackles and six tackles for loss in relief of Thomas over the past three seasons.