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 LSU’s X-factors this season.
TE DeSean Smith: Somewhere mixed into the confusion about the lack of production of LSU tight ends sits senior DeSean Smith, arguably the Tigers' most talented and game-changing player at that spot. While senior Colin Jeter has nailed down the starting spot and true freshman Caleb Roddy has emerged as an intriguing run-blocker at the end of the line – a la Dillon Gordon – Smith (6 feet 5, 249 pounds) still appears to be the best receiver of the group. Despite that distinction, Smith has just nine receptions in three years and none have gone for touchdowns. What remains to be seen is if his pesky sore knees can be managed enough for him to impact games and whether he can avoid some of the drops that have plagued him at times. Smith has the ability to get downfield and find open space against linebackers defending him. That could be a hugely valuable tool to Brandon Harris if – and from all indications when – the LSU offense throws the ball more this season.
OLB Michael Divinity: Listen or read enough, and you're bound to hear and read plenty about LSU's experienced defensive talent. Still, don't discount the idea of a true freshman filling a key void for at least the first several weeks. With Corey Thompson out of action with a fractured ankle, Divinity (6-2, 234) could well emerge as a starter or at least key contributor at an outside linebacker spot. Divinity is one of the more athletic linebackers LSU has landed in several year; he is a former quarterback at Louisiana prep powerhouse River Ridge John Curtis before he finished his prep career at Marrero John Ehret. For the Tigers, Divinity brings speed and more readiness than you might expect: He enrolled in January and went through spring practice to get acclimated in first-year coordinator Dave Aranda's system. Watch for him to be a playmaker against the run but also comfortable enough to handle backs and tight ends in pass coverage if needed. And he may make it tough for Thompson to get back on the field when he is ready to return.
(You can follow Randy Rosetta on Twitter @RandyRosetta)
© 2016, Randy Rosetta. All rights reserved.
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