By John P. Lopez (@LopezOnSports)

As the college football season begins to separate pretenders from contenders, so, too, have the game’s biggest playmakers begun to stake claim to the title of the nation’s best, “X-Factor.”

Among clear contenders for the inaugural Dante Hall Award, which recognizes college football’s most impactful player shorter than 6-feet tall, are Oregon game-breaker Charles Nelson and upstart Washington’s John Ross. The twosome coincidentally faced off last Saturday in what would be a Huskies romp, but each has racked up huge X-Factor performances.

The award will be presented in Houston in December, benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, and honors players who not only contribute offensively, but also can be game-changers on special teams. The award’s namesake was a four-year starter at Texas A&M University, accumulating 3,078-yards from scrimmage and 1,629-yards as a return man. As a professional, Hall was named to the 2000-2010 NFL All-Decade Team, twice earning first-team All-Pro honors, and finishing his career with 14,386-yards and 24 touchdowns.

Thus far, Nelson and Ross have more than lived up to the standard — Nelson ranking as the nation’s leader in combined return yardage, while adding 31 receptions for 285-yards. Ross, meanwhile, already has accounted for nine touchdowns receiving, one rushing and added a 92-yard kickoff return for a TD.

Numerous other X-Factor type players dot the latest watch list, including North Carolina’s T.J. Logan, with five rushing TDs, two receiving and a 95-yard kickoff return for a score. Explosive Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Houston’s D’Eriq King and Pitt’s Quadree Henderson also have put together explosive seasons already, and are among 36 players on the latest watch list.

Watch List


Any FBS player who is listed UNDER 6-feet-tall on official depth charts is eligible. Candidates must participate on offense and any special teams. We invite nominations throughout the season.

Player Ht, Wt School
Desmon White 5-7, 160 TCU
Christian Kirk 5-11, 200 Texas A&M
Charles Nelson 5-8, 170 Oregon
John Ross 5-11, 196 Washington
Tim White 5-11, 185 Arizona State
De’Mornay Pierson-El 5-9, 185 Nebraska
Kade Harrington 5-9, 192 Lamar
Speedy Noil 5-11, 200 Texas A&M
T.J. Logan 5-10, 190 North Carolina
Kermit Whitfield 5-8, 182 Florida State
Dontre Wilson 5-10, 195 Ohio State
Isaiah McKenzie 5-8, 164 Georgia
Tyrell Johnson 5-7, 165 Arizona
Jesus Wilson 5-11, 176 Florida State
Cameron Batson 5-9, 175 Texas Tech

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