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

Kahlil McKenzie Outback Bowl 2015 season
KAHLIL McKENZIE, BY KIM KLEMENT/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 Tennessee’s X-factors this season.

Offense

TE Jason Croom: Croom (6 feet 4, 246 pounds), a converted wide receiver, should be a matchup nightmare for opposing safeties and linebackers. Croom has had an injury-plagued career and looks to make his final season on Rocky Top a special one. Tennessee has been searching for more production from its tight ends since Butch Jones arrived in 2013, but hasn't had a player with Croom's size, speed and versatility. If he can stay healthy, he will be yet another weapon for Josh Dobbs. The passing attack must be revved up, and Croom can help those numbers.

Defense

DT Kahlil McKenzie: McKenzie, a sophomore whose dad, Reggie, is the GM of the Oakland Raiders, played lot of ball for Tennessee last season, though he never really had the impact most fans expected. Some of that was experience; some of that was McKenzie not being in good shape after missing his senior season of high school football. McKenzie says he has trimmed down to 315 pounds and is in the best shape he's been in since his junior year of high school. He looks ready to make a legitimate impact along the defensive line. Everyone is aware of the Vols' potentially dominant pass rush, and if McKenzie plays as well as expected, Tennessee could have one of the most impressive defensive lines in the country.

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(You can follow Seth Stokes on Twitter @SethStokesTSE)

© 2016, Seth Stokes. All rights reserved.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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