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Most Important Vol - Bowling Green

The players to watch in the season opener.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Our weekly feature returns with our staff picks for each game's most important player.

Will Shelton - Colton Jumper

Breaking hearts all over message boards this week, the walk-on gets the nod over the true freshman who missed spring practice at middle linebacker.  That sentence is a good reality check when thoughts of 15-0 get a little too close to home this week.  Jumper (and Darrin Kirkland, who should see snaps of his own) gets thrown into the fire right away against the third fastest team in college football last year.  It'll be interesting to see if any of the normal MLB duties get shifted to Jalen Reeves-Maybin, or if the Vols elect to go with JRM and Curt Maggitt at linebacker in a nickel hybrid.  But if Jumper wears even most of the normal responsibilities that go with being the starting middle linebacker, he'll need to get the Vols set up and help this defense slow down a potent offense, and do so with a more talented freshman breathing down his neck.  Walk-ons are great stories so long as they're helping the team.  I'm fascinated to see how Jumper can help the Vols this week.

Incipient_Senescence - Malik Foreman

The offense should be able to put up loads of points on Bowling Green's defense. The key to this game is preventing Bowling Green from doing the same. Don't allow big plays, don't let them move the chains on third down. And while we're all wondering how Colton Jumper will perform in his first start at Tennessee, a pass-happy spread team like Bowling Green will keep the Vols in the nickel more often than not, sending Jumper off the field in favor of Foreman, who becomes the weakest link in the secondary and the most likely to allow those conversions and keep Josh Dobbs off the field. The Vols have lots of potential in the secondary, even after serious injuries to a pair of projected starters, and we know Cam Sutton will lock down his side, but one weak link in the secondary can be deadly against a good offense. Foreman needs to step up and keep Tennessee from providing the Falcons a player to pick on.

Chris Pendley - Kyler Kerbyson

Spoiler: having an offensive line is kind of important. Since the offensive line was going to be one (probably the) biggest question mark going into the season as a unit, seeing the group already get hit with injuries isn't exactly the best introduction to August. The other problem: potential ineffectiveness. It'll fall to Kerbyson to be the Guy On The Line; he-and the rest of the line-should be able to handle Bowling Green, but if there are issues early, this could be a sign of concern down the road.

Charlie Burris - Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara is the key to Tennessee's offense. He's been a vocal leader throughout fall camp and he's the extra piece to the puzzle that the Vols have been looking for. Kamara adds depth at the running back position that Tennessee hasn't seen since the early 2000's. If he can live up to his billing, Tennessee will have the most dynamic offense in the SEC East. We already know Dobbs and Hurd have the talent and skills and a game against a lower-level opponent like Bowling Green affords UT the chance to give Kamara and all the players that at this point are just hype, plenty of reps so we can see if they live up to their potential.

Nathanael Rutherford - Emmanuel Moseley

The Vols are likely to see a LOT of passes on Saturday from Bowling Green, and it's a good time for Emmanuel Moseley, the Vols' No. 2 corner, to establish himself as the unquestioned second cornerback on the defense. Justin Martin has been banged up throughout fall camp and hasn't had much of a chance to challenge Moseley for the starting spot, but if Moseley can come out and prove he deserves to start alongside Cam Sutton, then the Vols' secondary should be in good hands this season.

Hunter Turner - Coleman Thomas

Thomas will start at center against Bowling Green after practicing as the first team right tackle for the last few weeks... after spending most of spring practice at center. Don't worry, former starting center Mack Crowder is still hanging around waiting for his shot to reclaim the starting role. No pressure, Coleman! At this point, Thomas should just set his ringtone for calls from the coaching staff to "Quit Playing Games With My Heart".  In any case, Bowling Green's defensive line will be one of the worst units the Vols will face all season, so it's a good chance for Thomas to get meaningful game experience without being thrown to the wolves. However, if he struggles with making the right protection calls or snapping the ball cleanly, Tennessee coaches will have to go back to drawing board after spending the entire offseason looking for answers.