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Most Important Vol: South Carolina

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Our writing staff makes its picks for this week’s most important player as the Vols begin the home stretch toward Atlanta.

Ohio v Tennessee Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Will Shelton - Jalen Hurd

We know Kamara is out this week (and almost certainly the next against Tennessee Tech). What we don't know is how much the Vols will include Josh Dobbs in the run game against the back half of this schedule. So I'm falling back on what this offense has done most often in the last three years: give the ball to Jalen Hurd and see what he can do, with or without much help around him. Hopefully a fairly decent version of our offensive line shows up this week to face a fairly decent Carolina defense, but this won't be the first time Hurd may have to do some things on his own. Tennessee will also need to replace 15% of its passing targets with Kamara out; some may go to John Kelly, but #1 can get involved there as well.

Volundore - Darrin Kirkland

I've spent all season oscillating back and forth between OL and LB. Last week I said OL, so it must be time for a linebacker.

South Carolina is...not as good as Alabama. Their offensive stats, as you would expect from any Muschamp outfit, are grim (127th in scoring offense, 123rd in total offense, 122nd in rushing offense). But the Tide highlighted just how dire the situation can be with no Kirkland, JRM, Sapp, or McDowell in the lineup. Having Kirkland back and somewhere near 100% will be a huge help in keeping the Gamecocks in a hole, preventing them from getting frisky and entertaining notions of an upset.

Incipient_Senescence - Shy Tuttle

Going into the Texas A&M game, the two-deep roster at defensive tackle comprised Shy Tuttle, Danny O'Brien, Kendal Vickers, and Kahlil McKenzie. By the end of the Alabama game, just one of those four was still healthy, and two of the other three have been lost for the season. On the plus side, that one healthy tackle is Shy Tuttle, who has been the most disruptive player in the interior of the line this season. With his fellows dropping like flies, Tuttle becomes even more important as the Vols try to shut down a less talented but also less battered Gamecocks attack.

Chris Pendley - Josh Dobbs

Look, this game is going to end 17-6 and the sooner we accept that, the easier things will be. I'd prefer to back the guy who can actually complete a forward pass. (Yeah, yeah, Jake Bentley went 17-26 last week, but you know there's a 9-19 waiting around the corner.) I hold no joys about what the playcalling in this game will bring, but Dobbs should be able to make some hay out of whatever broken plays end up rolling out of this game.

ps CAM SUTTON COMING BACK EARLY WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Justin R. Phillips - Dylan Wiesman

I'm tempted to go John Kelly here simply as a reminder of what our offense could look like with two dynamic backs and the best running quarterback in the nation not named "Lamar Jackson." I won't do that, though, believing Chris' prediction of a 17-6 game is closer to reality than what it should be. Thanks, DeBord. The fact is, if the senior offensive lineman is back for South Carolina then Jones will have options that are not redshirt or true freshmen. That's a good thing in SEC, where big-boy teams still run the football. Wiesman (and Robertson) return; Vols run and roll.