Texas Football: Why Quandre Diggs Will Be the Longhorns' X-Factor in 2014

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Texas Football: Why Quandre Diggs Will Be the Longhorns' X-Factor in 2014
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The spotlight on the Texas Longhorns is brighter than it has been it many years. Head coach Charlie Strong has a lot of players on his roster who have the opportunity to be important contributors toward the Longhorns' success in his first season.

It's obvious that a lot of attention will be on senior defensive end Cedric Reed, who ESPN's Mel Kiper projects as the No. 1 defensive end in the 2015 NFL draft. But one player who will be an X-factor for Texas is cornerback Quandre Diggs.

Diggs earned a starting role as a true freshman in 2011, and his growth has been evident since his first season. 

He is a bit on the small side, measuring in at 5'10", but he plays like a much bigger guy and earned the nickname "Quandre the Giant" because of his giant playmaking abilities.

Seeing the field in all 39 games during his three seasons at Texas, Diggs set the bar high during his freshman season when he was awarded the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award and a variety of other All-American honors.

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Opponents tried not to throw it in his direction as a sophomore, but he still managed to rack up a combined eight interceptions during his first two seasons.

In 2013, Diggs was moved to the nickel position, where he showed he could cause disruption in both the run and pass games. Although he did not gain an interception last season, Diggs managed to pick up 2.5 sacks and 10 pass breakups.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has commended Diggs for his toughness and said the defense needs more players with his attitude.

"Diggs has been a four-year player here," Bedford said. "He has that type of swagger, as a player would say. We need more guys with Diggs' attitude."

Whether he is playing at corner or nickelback, Diggs will always be a vocal leader for the defense, which is a trait he has carried since his freshman season. 

"Being a senior, it is my time to step up and be the leader for this team," Diggs said during spring practice. "Coach Strong has given us the reign to be senior leaders, and if we have something we need to say, we can say it."

It is typically the goal of defenses to force opponents to be one-dimensional. Strong and Bedford's defenses show a lot of aggressive traits and heavy rushes, which is part of the reason why Louisville was ranked as the No. 1 rush defense in the nation in 2013.

If the defensive line lives up to its hype and puts pressure on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, the backfield will have the opportunity to get turnovers. And that's where Quandre the Giant will have to step up and be the X-factor for the defense.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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