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Most Important Vol: Vanderbilt

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

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Will Shelton - Von Pearson

A trend:  in the first four games of the year, Pearson caught three passes for 57 yards.  In the next three games, he caught seven passes for 70 yards.  In Tennessee's four game winning streak, Pearson has 23 catches for 210 yards.  Against a Vanderbilt defense that should do everything in its fairly considerable power to make Dobbs throw, Pearson has clearly become the new Pig Howard and should reap whatever rewards are available.

I_S -- Josh Dobbs

I picked him last week, and I'm picking him again. He's really struggled against Missouri three years in a row now, and he's struggled against Vandy two years in a row. Tennessee can probably win with another off-game from Dobbs, but if the Vols want to move from "good" to "elite" at any time in the next year, they're going to need Josh Dobbs to be more consistent throwing the ball. The ground game is enough to take the defense's primary focus, even against a good defense. It's up to Dobbs to find the holes left in the back. If he does that, the Vols win in a rout this weekend. If he doesn't, they're going to need another dominant performance from the defense and special teams.

Chris Pendley - Cam Sutton

Well, not really. But I'll be Dooleyed before I let someone else pick him in what may be his next-to-last game as a Vol. The real answer here is somewhere in the middle linebacking corps--I'll pick Darren Kirkland, Jr. again. The only person on Vanderbilt's offense worth worrying about is Ralph Webb (last seen getting more carries per game than Jalen Hurd); Trent Sherfield is their "leading" WR at 50 yards/game with what might be a less-explosive passing game than Tennessee's (no mean feat, this). So: shut down Vanderbilt's passing game and don't be stupid and Tennessee will walk away with a win.

Shut down the running game? Yeah, step on up, Kirkland. You got this.

Hunter Turner -- Todd Kelly, Jr.

Vanderbilt's musical chairs quarterback derby of Shurmur and Johnnie Mac has produced an amusing blooper reel of miscues, fumbles, and poorly thrown passes this year. Given how tough the Commodores defense has been, Kelly can help the cause immensely by corralling a few wounded ducks and taking them back the other way. Vanderbilt has exactly one semi-dangerous receiving threat in tight end Whatever His Name Is, and there's also a high-volume Southern Named Guy who isn't terrible, but Cam Sutton and Justin Martin should be able to shut down those two clowns without any help. I'd expect Kelly to play center field most of the night, and he'll have his chances, unless Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig decides to abandon the pass completely.