Ex-Clemson four-star defensive lineman Xavier Kelly announces Arkansas as transfer destination

The good news keeps on coming for first-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman. Ex-Clemson defensive end Xavier Kelly, a former four-star prospect in the Class of 2016, announced on Twitter that he will finish his college career with the Razorbacks. Kelly is a rising senior graduate transfer and will be eligible in the 2020 season.

“I will be finishing out my college career at the University of Arkansas,” he wrote on Twitter.

Kelly played in 29 games in three seasons with coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers. He had 2.5 sacks playing mostly in a reserve role on that loaded defensive line. Kelly was the No. 100 overall player and ranked No. 8 among defensive ends in his recruiting class. He was the second-highest rated defensive lineman in Clemson’s 2016 class behind five-star defensive tackle and No. 2 overall player Dexter Lawrence. 

He will join an Arkansas defense that’s in desperate need of help up front. The Razorbacks finished last in the SEC in rushing defense at 221.50 yards per game, last in tackles for loss per game at 5.08 and 12th in the conference with 1.75 sacks per game. 

Kelly’s decision to transfer to Fayetteville is big news in what has been an impressive offseason for Pittman. Despite not having been a head coach at any level since 1992-93 at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, the former offensive line coach has been on a roll while luring in coveted transfers and keeping his own players in house. He convinced rising senior running back Rakeem Boyd, who rushed for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns in a one-dimensional offense last year, to return to the program rather than jump to the NFL. He then signed former Florida starting quarterback graduate transfer Feleipe Franks to stay in the conference and lead the Razorbacks offense. Franks is just one of several transfers to gravitate toward Fayetteville this winter including linebacker Levi Draper (Oklahoma), kicker AJ Reed (Duke) and defensive back Jerry Jacobs (Arkansas State).

Those personnel additions will only help Pittman and his new staff, which includes former Missouri head coach Barry Odom as defensive coordinator and noted offensive innovator Kendal Briles. 

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