Xavier Kelly: Clemson defensive end looking for a bigger role in 2018


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Xavier Kelly working out at fall camp
Xavier Kelly working out at fall camp

A moped accident derailed Xavier Kelly’s first season on the Clemson campus, but the Kansas native made strides in 2017. He’s hoping for an even bigger 2018.

Kelly was rated as a consensus top 150 prospect in the nation by many scouting services and was rated the No. 84 overall prospect by 247 Sports, listed as the No. 113 prospect overall by Scout and No. 154 by both ESPN and Prep Star, No. 141 overall and second-best player in Kansas by Rivals and the No. 1 prospect in Kansas by ESPN.

Kelly selected Clemson over offers from Georgia, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Alabama and was poised to make an impact in 2016 when his accident occurred. He was sitting at s stop sign on his moped when he was hit by a car. Kelly was flipped off the moped and suffered cuts and abrasions and had to get stitches on his foot. He didn’t recover in time to avoid a redshirt.

“It set me back a little bit,” Kelly told TigerNet. “But I also gained a lot of knowledge because I was able to sit down and focus on the mental things.”

Kelly played in eight games this past season, registering nine tackles in just 76 snaps, and says he has worked hard to make even more of an impact next season.

“I have been working on my technique,” he said. “Just using my hands and improving my footwork. Just the little things that can make me a better player.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says he’s proud of what Kelly has accomplished.

“But I’m really proud of Xavier Kelly,” Swinney said. “Physically, he’s as good as we’ve got. Really just ownership of the system and dependability as far as applying the system, he’s still got some ground to make up ... but talent-wise, he’s what you’re looking for.”

Playing time for Kelly and the others on the defensive line depends on whether standouts like Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell return for a final season.

“I am focusing on me getting better and me being the best I can be. I definitely feel like it doesn't matter if those guys leave or not,” Kelly said. “I learned a lot from Clelin and Austin. They have helped me with a lot. I learned a lot about technique and things like that. If they leave, that will be good and if they stay that will be good. But if they stay I can learn even more knowledge.”

In Kelly’s corner is defensive line coach Todd Bates.

“He really focuses on the small things.,” Kelly said of Bates. “Things like using your hands and how to go into a certain gap. He is a technique guy and you can learn a lot from him.”

Despite the setback and lack of playing time this season, Kelly says he is still glad he chose Clemson.

“This has been great. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Not many people get to go to schools where you go to the Playoff and play in all of these big games. I am very thankful I came to Clemson.”


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