As some of you may have heard, Xavier Kelly, a defensive tackle from Clemson, originally hailing from Wichita (East), has entered the transfer portal as a graduate transfer. He will be immediately eligible, and has one season remaining.
As a Recruit
Class of 2016
#1 Player in Kansas
#8 Weak Side Defensive End Nationally
#100 Overall Player Nationally
Clemson Career (On the Field)
Link to Clemson Bio
2017: 8 Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 1 Sack, 76 Total Snaps
(Transitioned from Defensive End to Defensive Tackle)
2018: 9 Tackles, 1 Tackle For Loss, 1 Sack, 93 Snaps
2019: 9 Tackles, 1⁄2 Sack, 2 Pass Breakups
Clemson Career (Off the Field)
Earned Degree in Sports Communication
PAW Program Journey Ambassador
Why Should K-State Be Interested?
To understand why K-State should be interested in Xavier, you need to know how he ended up in the transfer portal in the first place.
Kelly had an interesting career arc at Clemson. He was slated to see the field, and considered a potential difference maker at defensive end in 2016. Clemson was thin at the position, and Kelly came in with grown man size and strength.
Then he got rear ended at a stop sign while driving a moped.
He suffered a foot injury, and in his own words was “set back a little bit.” This started his string of personal bad luck at Clemson. He sat out 2016 recovering from his injury and fell further behind.
Kelly came in as a physical freak but raw in terms of technique and understanding scheme. In high school, he job was to go out on the field and physically dominate the opposition in any manner he found suitable. At Clemson he was expected to play with sound technique and scheme discipline. Understandably, that transition was somewhat of a struggle.
He played sparingly in 2017 as a redshirt freshman behind star defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, but looked well-positioned to snap up playing time at defensive end in 2018 with Ferrell and Bryant both potentially moving on to the NFL draft...until they both decided to stay. On top of Ferrell and Bryant forgoing the draft and returning to school, Clemson signed 5-star defensive end Xavier Thomas in the 2018 class, and his talent was impossible to keep off the field. Instead of a wide open depth chart in 2018, a log jam of NFL talent formed in front of him.
While defensive end was crowded, the depth chart at defensive tackle was a little sparse. The Clemson staff asked if Kelly was willing to transition from end to tackle in order to provide depth and potentially see the field more. He agreed, but ended up as the 5th defensive tackle in a four defensive tackle rotation. Luckily for Xavier, Clemson had two defensive tackles drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft, and the third tackle on the depth chart also graduated (and is currently in the NFL). It looked like 2019 was finally going to be the year that he saw substantial playing time.
Then Brent Venables transitioned from his usual 4-3 base defense to a 3-3 stack (after hanging out at Iowa State), eschewing a 3 Tech defensive tackle for an safety on the field. Unfortunately, for Xavier, he was one of the 3 Tech defensive tackles that lost substantial playing time to this shift in defensive philosophy. No matter what he tried, the cards kept coming up snake eyes (in terms of playing time) for Kelly.
Playing the “what if” game isn’t productive, but I wonder how different his career at Clemson would have been if he hadn’t been rear-ended on that moped as a freshman. I think that if he had seen the field early, stayed healthy, and gotten some snaps under his belt, things would have worked out differently. That didn’t happen, though, and now he’s looking for a place to use his final year of eligibility.
O.K.....but that still doesn’t tell me why K-State should be interested.
I’m fairly plugged into the Clemson media scene. I follow most of the major players on social media, and I can tell you that Kelly is unanimously loved by the Clemson writers. You normally don’t hear much about a reserve defensive tackle garnering minimal playing time, but over the last few years, I’ve heard a good bit about Xavier, and everything I’ve heard is overwhelmingly positive.
I’ve seen him described as:
A hard worker.
Someone who’s willing to sacrifice his personal goals for the good of the team.
A genuinely good guy.
An incredible artist (I’ll get to that later).
He could have easily transferred when the Clemson coaches asked him to bulk up and change positions. Instead, he hit the training table and weight room, gained 25-30 pounds, and when he still didn’t get playing time because of some uncontrollable circumstances, he didn’t pout or shut down, but instead, kept working hard to earn more playing time and graduate.
In a world of guys looking out for number one, Xavier Kelly was always a guy more interested in the good of the team during his Clemson career. Although things didn’t work out the way he envisioned on the field, that didn’t stop him from being a good teammate or a good student. I’m not sure you could ask any more out of player with his talent in that position.
O.K.....cool story, but this is football and Coach Klieman is running a football team, not a charity.
Kansas State just lost Trey Dishon, Jordan Mitty, and Joe Davies at defensive tackle. They have some options on the roster with guys like Drew Wiley at the 3 Tech and man mountain Matthew Pola-Mao at the nose, but adding Kelly to the defensive tackle rotation would be a much needed injection of experience and talent.
Don’t forget, Xavier Kelly was, and still is, an athletic specimen.
The fact that he couldn’t find much playing time at Clemson doesn’t mean he isn’t a solid player. It doesn’t even mean that he isn’t a great player. It just means he couldn’t beat out a bunch of NFL-level guys after an injury set-back his freshman year. K-State needs talented athletes, and Kelly fits the bill.
In my humble opinion, picking him up is all reward and zero risk. Best case scenario, you’re getting a 4-star defensive tackle with something to prove. Worst case scenario is you’re getting a 4-star person who, if nothing else, will provide leadership to younger players.
If there is a scholarship available (and there should be) and if Kelly wants to come back home to use his final year of eligibility, I see no reason why this won’t work for both parties.
I’ve enjoyed watching Xavier in purple and orange over the last three years, and I would love to see him in purple in white for his final year.