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Most Important Vol - Western Carolina

Our writing staff picks this week's most important player.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last week we went mostly defense, including much talked about names like Colton Jumper and non-Sutton corners.  No one took Jalen Hurd, who ended up being Tennessee's most valuable player if not most important as well.  Creativity abounds when facing an FCS opponent in this category:

Will Shelton - Marquez North

This offense may not think or operate in terms of a number one receiver, but one of the quickest ways to get the passing game going is to involve #8.  Anyone who had Jauan Jennings as the team's leading receiver in yards after two games, congratulations.  Meanwhile Marquez has one catch for nine yards, and I'm not sure how many targets he has beyond that.  I would agree you can't just set up a gameplan to say, "Throw it to that guy," but this is a great opportunity to build confidence in the pass game beyond just Dobbs, who we already know can torch bad defenses.  I would wager the receivers are among the most frustrated position groups over there right now.  I'd start easing that frustration with your most talented target.

Incipient_Senescence - Darrin Kirkland Jr.

Beating Western Carolina should be a given. If it isn't, the problems are much deeper than any one player. So the key to this game is really about setting up for the rest of the season. And apart from getting the receivers going, the biggest thing Tennessee can do for the rest of the season is solve the MLB question. Colton Jumper is giving everything he has, but he's just not ready for SEC ball. Kirkland is much faster and more athletic, and every report from camp said he was smart too. Not to mention he had a sack and a forced fumble in his first college game. Kirkland should be starting by the end of the season, and it's better for Tennessee if he stakes his claim sooner rather than later.

Charlie Burris - Josh Dobbs

Dobbs had a very off night against Oklahoma through the air. He needs to use the Western Carolina to build back his confidence passing the ball to be prepared to face Florida next week. The Gators have a high powered secondary and, as we learned against the Sooners, UT can't just stay on the ground for an entire game and win. Hopefully, the offensive coaching staff will use the matchup with WCU to learn also. Their weak play calling hurt Tennessee badly on Saturday and they need gain confidence as well so the Vols' offensive attack can be more aggressive next week against UF.

Chris Pendley - The Head Trainer

Seriously, I'm kind of done with the injuries right now. Get through this game healthy.

Nathanael Rutherford - Whoever takes over for Curt Maggitt

Getting the news that Curt Maggitt will miss the majority of the year (if not the whole year) was a big loss to Tennessee's defense. Is it devastating? No. The Vols can recover. But right now it remains to be seen who will step up in Maggitt's place and which position will take more of the load now that he's out. At defensive end, Kyle Phillips should get a shot to play more, as well as Cory Vereen. Linebacker, however, is a bigger question. Austin Smith has played more in practice this week, so he's someone to keep an eye on. But whoever ends up stepping in for Maggitt will be a player to watch in this game and moving forward.

Late Addition: Hunter Turner - Shy Tuttle and/or Kahlil McKenzie

The two five-star freshmen were unblockable at times during fall camp, but so far this season, neither one has had an outstanding defensive play, let alone a game-changing impact. Of course it's early, and defensive tackle is one of the hardest positions to play as a true freshman... but the Vols desperately need help along the defensive line and these guys are the most likely candidates. And they're five-stars! Jancek and Stripling aren't going to trust the young guys against Florida if they can't get lined up correctly against Lower Division State University College, so we should all be watching to see how early and how often these guys get in the game.