MLB Kendall Joseph (5'11, 230) from Belton, SC is my choice for X-factor. Wait, what? Kendall Joseph?
Yes, Kendall Joseph is probably ranked well below other key players like Tank or whoever our new kickers shake out to be. The previous articles of Joe Gore, Kevin Dodd, and others make great arguments. I wanted to go the path less traveled because every season I find an unheralded player or two really do make the difference.
An X-factor to me is a guy who isn't a key piece of the puzzle (we all know we need a healthy Deshaun Watson to be successful), but remains vitally important to your overall success. Last year you could argue that it might have been Garry Peters, for example.
Kendall is a redshirt freshman but currently sits as our number three option at LB. Korie Rogers is the more highly recruited LB with arguably a higher ceiling but Kendall will be the guy who is called on to spell MLB BJ Goodson (and possibly Boulware) as the second string guy. As we learned last year, the backup LB can be a very important player because of injury and ridiculous targeting penalties. Kellen Jones was actually the first man up behind Stephone Anthony last year, but was pretty bad when he played--busting on a number of plays (largely due to lingering knee issues) that led to scores. Ben Boulware would step in and take over that role, ultimately playing the majority of the bowl game after Anthony was called for a stupid targeting penalty in the Carolina game. Boulware was a legitimate X-factor last year.
BJ Goodson has been solid in his spot duty the past two years, but he has also been susceptible to injury (concussion) and Coach Venables has wanted more leadership out of him during the offseason. At the other LB position--can Boulware go the entire season without a targeting call? Can both starting LB's?
Kendall exited the Spring and Summer as the number three guy precisely because he is very steady and doesn't bust on plays or get out of position. At 230 he has good size and adequate height at MLB. He played very well in the Spring game and is poised to continue Venables mold of hard-nosed LB player. With our depth issues along the defensive line it will be even more important to have solid LB play. I think Richard Yeargin is another guy who will be big in a complimentary role and Mark Fields is another potential candidate (If I get three then TJ Green goes in there and on offense I am going with Deon Cain at 197 pounds as a true freshman--goodness), but Joseph is a guy no one is talking about who could be huge for us.