Editor’s note: The difference between a contender and pretender is oftentimes the presence (or absence) of a player deemed as a “x-factor.” This story is taking a look at the x-factors for the football, volleyball, soccer, women’s and men’s basketball teams. If these players perform, there’s a good chance the team improves its production too.
X-factor: Chris Nutall, senior running back.
The Texas State football team does not enjoy tackling Nutall, the first overall pick in the Maroon-Gold Spring Game, for a reason.
Nutall is a physical runner and he is not afraid of contact. Give Nutall a sliver of open space and he has the speed to take advantage. Give Nutall no space and he will break tackles — and defenders spirits — to create plays out of nothing.
Nutall is a bowling ball and defenders are the unfortunate pins standing between him and the end zone. More often than not, Nutall is going to be successful.
Adding Nutall, who missed the entire 2014 season due to academic reasons, to the Sun Belt Conference’s third-ranked rushing offense is a luxury that most teams do not have. Robert Lowe, junior running back, and Tyler Jones, junior quarterback, could stand to benefit from Nutall playing an entire season.
X-factor: Someone who can replace Jordan Moore, Ali Gonzales and Caylin Mahoney.
The volleyball team will be without its three top setters from last year. The trio of Moore, Gonzales and Mahoney accounted for 1,481 of the team’s 1,719 assists last season.
It’s up to a combination of Sierra Smith, junior libero, Brenna Lyles, sophomore libero, Ali Hubicsak, senior libero, Emily Shelton, junior setter and Erin Hoppe, sophomore setter, to fill the hole at the setter position.
Without a reliable setter to maintain the pace, Texas State’s offense could falter. For context, the Bobcats finished second in assists and kills per set last season.
X-factor: Kassi Hormuth, sophomore forward.
Texas State is losing the dynamic ability of Tori Hale who had a knack for creating goals for herself and her teammates. Hale attempted 45 shots last season, accouting for 14 percent of the team’s attempts.
It won’t be easy to replicate Hale’s production, but Hormuth has the opportunity and the trust of Coach Kat Conner to step in to her role this season.
Hormuth registered the third-most shots on the team (32) behind Hale and Lynsey Curry, senior forward. What bodes well for Hormuth is her shot efficiency. Fifty-nine percent of Hormuth’s shots were on goal last season, a higher mark than Curry, the team’s leading goal scorer, and Hale.
X-factor: Kavin Gilder-Tilbury, junior forward.
At 6-foot-7, 210 lbs, it is not a matter of Gilder-Tilbury being physically overmatched in the Sun Belt Conference. Gilder-Tilbury has the physical attributes to excel.
The 2013-2014 season, however, was an exercise in futility for Gilder-Tilbury. He struggled to find himself in the offense until the last month of the season. For a team needing an offensive spark behind Emani Gant, senior forward, his absence was felt.
Gilder-Tilbury should be the top perimeter option to complement Gant. Perhaps his last four games of the season — where he averaged 16.3 points and 2.5 3-pointers per game — is a glimpse of what he can provide in the upcoming season.
X-factor: Kaitlin Walla, junior guard.
Walla missed 24 of 32 games last season, after injuring her ACL during the Stetson Hatter Classic. Prior to the injury, Walla was averaging 7.6 points in 23.1 minutes per game.
The second unit lacked experience and poise without Walla leading the way. Taeler Deer, freshman guard, was granted opportunity and found some success during her absence.
A year later, the women’s basketball team will be able to rely on Deer and Walla for the second unit. Walla, a 5-foot-9 guard, has the size, vision, defense and shooting ability that Coach Zenarae Antoine can utilize in any situation.