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 Vanderbilt’s X-factors this season.
TE Jared Pinkney: In what could end up being the deepest tight end unit in the SEC by season's end – and, yes, we're serious – Pinkney could stand out in coordinator Andy Ludwig's pro-style scheme. Pinkney (6 feet 4, 250 pounds), a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver in high school in the Atlanta area, has the ability to get open down the seam. Whether he is used as a "flex" tight end outside or as a "regular" in-line tight end, Pinkney will be a welcomed addition to a unit that ranked 111th nationally in passing offense last season (171.8 yards per game). Judging from Ludwig's offensive style at past stops, expect a lot of multiple tight end sets. Pinkney has the potential to be targets often even if he's not starting. He would've played a lot last season had he not been lost for the season with a collarbone injury in Vanderbilt's opening game.
OLB Charles Wright: He played in 11 games last season, mainly on special teams, as a redshirt freshman. But Wright (6-3, 235) appears poised to be a big-time contributor this fall in coach Derek Mason's defense. Wright has a high motor and judging by the spring game, where he was all over the field, it looks as if he'll make a major impact as a pass rusher. Wright also has the athletic ability to drop into coverage and the explosion to burst by offensive tackles to make plays in opposing backfields. Vandy has a top-flight inside linebacker duo in Zach Cunningham and Nigel Bowden, and Wright – who is from the Los Angeles area – has the potential to give them a big-timer on the outside, as well.
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