In preparation for the 2014 college football season, Saturday Down South takes a look at the X-factor for every SEC team. Not only do these players have the opportunity to make major contributions for their respective squads, but they could also be the difference in a successful season or a losing season.

Today, we’re discussing the X-factor for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

X-Factor Series:

LB Brooks Ellis

2013 wasn’t a season to write home about for the Razorbacks. With an overall record of 3-9 and zero conference wins, there are many areas where the Hogs need to see improvement in 2014, especially at the linebacker position.

Linebacker Brooks Ellis could be the catalyst they need for a stronger Arkansas defense. The Fayetteville, Ark. native was a true freshman who really came into his own towards the end of the season. By November, Ellis was a full-time starter at the heart of the defense. In his last four games, he tallied 30 total tackles.

Safety Alan Turner was the Hogs’ leading tackler last season. While Turner is a talented player, it’s never a good sign for a defense when a safety leads the team in tackles, especially in the SEC. Arkansas is desperately looking to for a playmaker at linebacker and former defensive coordinator Chris Ash (now with Ohio State) sees Ellis as a guy who can fill that role for them.

“We’ve obviously run a lot of guys through there since last spring trying to find out who that guy is,” Ash said in a Nov. 8 interview with the Arkansas News Bureau. “I think we found it with Brooks Ellis. At least right now to this point coming out of the first game that he played. We’re excited about what he can do in the future for this program and build a defense around him.”

There won’t be much time for Ellis to get comfortable in his starting role as the Razorbacks open up the season against Auburn on Aug. 30. It’ll be the first time the Razorbacks have started their season against an SEC opponent since they joined the conference in 1992.

But Ellis has the makeup of another quality SEC linebacker and a player the coaches believe can succeed at arguably one of the most demanding positions in football. Head coach Bret Bielema even believes Ellis can contribute at multiple positions for the Arkansas defense and Bielema credits Ellis’ emergence on the defense to his football savvy and ability to erase mistakes.

He has a bright future at Arkansas and he’ll be an important part of the foundation Bielema is hoping to build in Fayetteville during his second season.