The definition of an “X-factor,” says Merriam-Webster (you know, the dictionary people), is “a circumstance, quality or person that has a strong but unpredictable influence.” When it comes to football, then, think of an “X-factor” as a player who could make – or break – an offense or a defense.
Here are Kentucky’s X-factors this season.
The wide receivers: We'll go with the entire unit as the biggest X-factor for the offense this season. While the Wildcats have seven receivers with a combined 2,056 receiving yards returning this season, this position by far has been the most inconsistent over the past few seasons. Drops have been frequent drive-killers. In the up-tempo version of the spread installed by new co-coordinators Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw, there's an emphasis on getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly; the completion percentage needs to be in the mid-60s to keep the chains moving, which means the receivers need to catch the ball. Juniors Dorian Baker and Garrett Johnson lead the group, and senior Ryan Timmons needs to rediscover his mojo. He led UK with 45 receptions in 2014, but that figure dropped to 12 last season. There's a new receivers coach, Lamar Thomas, who arrived from Louisville. He needs to find a way to coax consistency from his unit.
ILB Courtney Love: Love (6 feet 2, 245 pounds) is exactly the type of downhill run-stuffing linebacker that coordinator D.J. Eliot is looking for on the inside. But can Love do the job? He sat out last season after transferring from Nebraska and heads an inexperienced linebacker corps. The defense lost six of its seven top tacklers from last season and UK returns just two linebackers who made a tackle last season. Love must make an immediate impact. Kentucky coaches have raved about his leadership ability, and now he needs to show he can actually play.
(You can follow Jimmy Schofield on Twitter @JimmySchofield1)
© 2016, Jimmy Schofield. All rights reserved.
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