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Most Important Vol: North Texas

Our writing staff makes their picks for the week's most important player.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Will Shelton - Evan Berry (at safety)

From a year away, it looks like the biggest question facing the 2016 Vols will be at safety.  Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil will graduate, leaving Todd Kelly Jr. and a significant question mark.  Evan Berry has earned meaningful playing time over Stephen Griffin thus far, but the results have not been great:  without McNeil and TK against Bowling Green Berry was part of the group that got torched, and when Randolph was lost due to targeting last week Berry again seemed to struggle.  There is no question Berry has the athletic tools, but if he is going to be part of the answer for a 2016 team looking to win championships, you'd like to see him start making progress now and there should be plenty of opportunity to do so against North Texas.

I_S -- Josh Malone
After seeing it twice in a row against Kentucky and South Carolina, I think it's safe to say that the trend of teams focusing their attention on Jalen Hurd and the run game is going to continue. And while Josh Dobbs has been able to do some good things with the opponents' attention off the passing game, it's hard for anyone wearing orange to feel overly confident about the passing game. One reason is that Dobbs, while improvement, is still an inconsistent passer. Another reason is that all of the receivers are inconsistent. And if anyone needs practice just making catches in game situations, it's Josh Malone. He has more talent than any healthy receiver on the Vols' roster, but he's made enough memorable drops in key situations to last a lifetime. On the bright side, so did Denarius Moore early in his career, and developed into an NFL talent. Malone has a chance to do the same thing, but right now, he needs any chance he can get to just make catches.

Chris Pendley - Cam Sutton
Seriously, this is a game against North Texas. The real most important Vol is the trainer, because the only thing that really matters here is not getting injured.

Hunter Turner -- Quinten Dormady
No, I'm not insane-- the Vols need Dormady to win this game like a fish needs a bicycle. On the other hand, this should be the first game all year where we get to see what the backup quarterback can do, and that's more important than trying to pick out the player most likely to singlehandedly overwhelm the Mean Green (BTW, it's Kamara). With Sheriron Jones redshirting this year and Jarrett Guarantano coming in the summer, this is Dormady's chance to solidify his hold on the backup job or audition for a transfer spot.

Nathanael Rutherford - Player health
Okay, this may be a cop out of sorts, but it's true: The Vols cannot afford to sustain any injuries against North Texas this weekend. Tennessee should be able to handle what might possibly be the worst team to ever set foot in Neyland Stadium even if they started their reserves right out of the gate. But what Tennessee absolutely cannot do is have any starter or key back-up get injured and miss upcoming games against Missouri and Vanderbilt. The Vols are already banged up enough as it is at almost every position on the roster, and Tennessee is just a player or two away from really being in trouble from a depth perspective. Tennessee needs to stay healthy during this game and simply handle their business and move on.