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 Ole Miss’ X-factors this season.
RB Eric Swinney: Ole Miss knows what it has in Akeem Judd; the bigger question among the running backs is Swinney (5 feet 9, 210 pounds), a redshirt freshman from the Atlanta area. Ole Miss has relied heavily on its passing attack under Freeze, and many observers believe Swinney could be the back Rebels coaches – and fans – have yearned for. Swinney missed last season with a stress fracture, then had a strong spring. He has good speed and big-play ability, yet is comfortable running between the tackles. "we can be the best running back group in the country," he said. "I'm here for whatever the team needs me to do."
DT Issac Gross: Gross (6-1, 263) suffered a neck injury in the opener against UT Martin and was lost for the season. He's healthy now and should be a team leader, both physically and emotionally. He's small but quick, and does a nice job compensating for his lack of bulk with technique and instincts. His best season came as a sophomore in 2013, when he had 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He should be part of an effective tackle rotation. Yes, the Rebels will miss Robert Nkemdiche, but Gross' return is a big boost as Ole Miss attempts to replace Nkemdiche. Pass-rushing E Marquis Haynes is a given; if Gross can be disruptive in the middle, Ole Miss' line will wreak havoc.
(You can follow Brad Logan on Twitter @BradLoganCOTE)
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