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Most Important Vol: Kentucky

Our writing staff makes its picks for this week’s most important player.

Alabama v Tennessee Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Will Shelton - Josh Malone

More receiving yards in nine games this year (556) than any Vol had in all of 2015 or 2013. More receiving touchdowns (7) than any Vol has had since Justin Hunter (9) in 2012. For all the consternation about Tennessee's offense, the Vols do have the downfield target we've been looking for. And they probably have two of them considering Jauan Jennings catches everything thrown his way...which is one more reason for Malone's importance to this team in creating another option a defense must account for. Malone took the top off Kentucky last year; doing it again Saturday will help make everything better for the Vol offense.

Incipient_Senescence - Josh Dobbs

Dobbs played the worst game we've seen from him in a long time two weeks ago, and it was a big part of the reason that Tennessee's offense put up a mere 14 points in a loss to South Carolina. If he plays like that again, the Vols will probably lose to Kentucky. If he plays like he did against Florida? It could be a repeat of 2014 and 2015 against a Kentucky team that still has a mental hill to climb in the annual border war.

Chris Pendley - Derek Barnett

I dunno. I'm still half-convinced Kentucky is going to end up at 5-7 once again (even if they win on Saturday; I don't know how they'll do that, but I have faith), and Barnett has basically been taking large portions of the playbook out for opposing offenses this year. Every potential edge is significant; we know he's one.

ps Cam Sutton might be back soon

Volundore - Todd Kelly Jr.

Sort of glossed over in the midst of the fallout of the last few weeks is the fact that TKJr had to play most of the snaps in the 2nd half of a 55-0 blowout against a bad FCS team because there was nobody else to take snaps at safety. It would be great if he could stay healthy because it turns out that UK is kind of competent at football this year. The Wildcats rank 31st in the nation in rushing at 216 ypg, and with a patchwork DL, safety will be key to providing run support and getting back when the inevitable play action pass comes.

Justin R. Phillips - Darrin Kirkland Jr

Where have you gone, Hal Mumme? A bored UK Nation turns its eyes to you? Kentucky makes no secrets about its offensive game plan: The Wildcats plan to run, run, run...sometimes even out of the (groan) Wildcat. If you caught the end of the UK-UGA game, then you witnessed Eddie Gran call plays reminiscent of an era before the forward pass was a legal play. Kirkland is the defensive alpha now, so slowing down the Wildcat running game is the key to rolling up one more big win for the Vols.