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Most Important Vol Season in Review

Who ended up being Tennessee's most important player this year?

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Each week in this space our writers have picked Tennessee's most important player for that week's game.  These have ranged from the humorous (the head trainer got picked twice this year) to the predictable, with that week's opponent obviously dictating much of our choices.  I thought it would be interesting to go back and see which players our writing staff picked the most over 12 games; in some cases creative choices led to multiple players being picked by the same person in a given week ("The right tackle" or "The non-Cam Sutton cornerback hydra," etc.).  No repetition was allowed each week, so the most a player can appear is 12 times.  Some of the answers were obvious, some surprising:

7 Selections:  Josh Dobbs

If I asked who Tennessee's best player is, answers would vary.  But the identity of Tennessee's most important player is clearly Josh Dobbs.  This is true not just in the way the quarterback is the most important player for most teams, but because of the difference in Tennessee's offense when Dobbs gets involved in the run game.  Throwing out Western Carolina and North Texas, in the last two years the Vols are 11-1 when Dobbs runs for 35+ net yards and 0-4 when he doesn't (with an average of just 12.7 net yards rushing for Dobbs in those losses to Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alabama).  It will be interesting to see how much this trend continues to be Tennessee's identity in 2016.  To no surprise, Dobbs was a selection when the Vols faced Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

5 Selections:  Darrin Kirkland Jr. & Cam Sutton

Sutton comes as no surprise thanks in large part to Chris Pendley's devotion to his cause.  Also, he's really good at football.  Kirkland is a reflection of "Tennessee needs to stop the run," something they ended up doing fairly well at 49th nationally in run defense.

4 Selections:  Marquez North & Josh Malone

A reflection of, "Tennessee needs a number one receiver."  The early season assumption was North would be that guy and that became a bit of, "Why isn't he being that guy?"  Then Malone, who was the most active receiver in the first three games of the season, took on some of those expectations with mixed results.  While the Vols may have answered some of their stopping the run issues, figuring out if we'll have a number one receiver next year and then figuring out who that will be is certainly still on the to-do list.

3 Selections:  Chance Hall, Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara, Emmanuel Moseley, Corey Vereen, Preston Williams

Chance Hall is like the backup quarterback of the offensive line, clearly the most popular choice despite playing fewer snaps.  We got a glimpse of him in a crucial situation against Georgia and assumed more greatness was on the way (and it may be).  Preston Williams appears in the continuing search for a number one receiver surrounding his performance against Western Carolina; Corey Vereen around his performance against Alabama.  And Emmanuel Moseley was part of a run of secondary picks in the aftermath of the Bowling Green games.

2 Selections:  Derek Barnett, Evan Berry, Malik Foreman, Colton Jumper, Todd Kelly Jr., Justin Martin, Von Pearson

Four of these seven are defensive backs, which will be one of the major questions for Tennessee next fall especially if Cam Sutton goes pro.  Colton Jumper appeared early before Kirkland established himself, Von Pearson late after becoming Dobbs' favorite target down the stretch.

1 Selection:  16 players & 3 coaches

What's most interesting about this:  Jalen Reeves-Maybin is on the short list of who might be Tennessee's best player.  And he shows up just once here, largely because you knew exactly what you were getting from him in all 12 games.  JRM was Tennessee's most reliable performer on the defensive side of the ball if not the whole team.