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The offensive and defensive ‘X-factors’ for South Carolina in 2016

Rashad Fenton vs. UK in 2015
JIM DEDMON/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 South Carolina’s X-factors this season.

Offense

C/G Cory Helms: Helms, a transfer from Wake Forest who sat out last season, will make his debut as a Gamecock opening night against Vanderbilt. Helms (6 feet 4, 310 pounds), a junior, may need to start at center. Returning starter Alan Knott had wrist surgery after spring practice and has gotten limited snapping time in practice as a result. With South Carolina having three of its first four games on the road and potentially a true freshman at quarterback, there's going to be a lot of pressure on the center to handle all aspects of his job perfectly. Helms started 16 games at the position for the Demon Deacons; coming out of spring ball, though, he had been expected to be the Gamecocks' right guard. If he's rusty at all after a year away from the field, it will be difficult for South Carolina's offense to succeed.

Defense

CB Rashad Fenton: Will Muschamp's defense requires cornerbacks capable of playing man coverage well enough to execute what he wants to do. Fenton (5 feet 10, 190 pounds), a sophomore, appears to be the choice as the second corner to go with Chris Lammons. Fenton has speed (Steve Spurrier publicly mused about moving him to offense after he broke off a kickoff return for a touchdown against LSU last season) but little on-field college experience at cornerback. At one point, Fenton had been considered the potential nickelback, but now Muschamp says that likely will be senior Jordan Diggs. Assuming that holds, Fenton will be asked to single cover a receiver around two-thirds of the time he's on the field. How well he holds up will be one of the most important factors in South Carolina's hopes of substantial defensive improvement.

(You can follow Heath Cline on Twitter @heathradio)

© 2016, Heath Cline. All rights reserved.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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