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The offensive and defensive ‘X-factors’ for Mississippi State in 2016

Malik Dear 2015 season
JOSHUA LINDSEY/USA TODAY SPORTS

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 Mississippi State’s X-factors this season.

Offense

WR Malik Dear: Dear looks poised for a breakout season – and the Bulldogs need him to do just that. Dear (5 feet 9, 200 pounds) battled nagging injuries last season and didn't see as much time as coaches wanted. His versatility is impressive. He was a high school running back and can be used on jet sweeps; he can line up wide, in the slot or even in the backfield. With the Bulldogs looking for consistency in the running game as well as someone to take some pressure off WR Fred Ross, a healthy Dear could be huge for the Bulldogs this season. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen was the offensive coordinator at Florida when Percy Harvin starred for the Gators and likes to reference Harvin as a do-it-all kind of guy. Not that Dear is as talented, but he may be the Bulldogs' version of Harvin in 2016.

Defense

LB Leo Lewis: Mississippi State has built a reputation for solid linebacker play this decade, and the position definitely should be a strength for the 2016 team. The linebacker who could end up being the best of them all is Lewis, a redshirt freshman. Lewis was a four-star recruit considered the nation's top inside linebacker prospect in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Lewis (6-2, 240) is a big guy who is physical and fast. He drew praise from teammates and coaches during the spring. With Mississippi State moving to a 3-4 under first-year coordinator Peter Sirmon, Lewis looks to have the skill set to thrive in that scheme.

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(You can follow Jake Wimberly on Twitter @jakewim)

© 2016, Jake Wimberly. All rights reserved.

© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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