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Most Important Vol: Vanderbilt

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

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Will Shelton - Jonathan Kongbo

Kongbo is new to the program and new to defensive tackle, where last week he played a majority of snaps next to Kendal Vickers, our only remaining true DT on scholarship. Missouri took advantage of this early and often with an incredibly fast pace - Kongbo struggled to get lined up correctly or in some cases at all. The ability is there - he read a screen perfectly and housed it in the fourth quarter - but Bob Shoop will need to help him clean up the rest against a Vanderbilt team with the same potential path to success on the ground through the middle of Tennessee's defense.

Volundore - Josh Dobbs

Maybe Volundore should recuse himself this week? Naaaaah...I'll just take one of the obvious choices by virtue of getting my vote in early.

It hasn't been a banner year for Mason's defense (61st in total defense, equally mediocre against the run and pass), but I expect him to take a long, hard look at the South Carolina film and try to replicate that strategy: force negative plays, drop into coverage on 3rd and long and put the onus on Dobbs to make a play. Now, Dobbs was, in a word, horrific in that game, but the scheme had something to do with that. If Dobbs takes what is there, makes his reads on time, and doesn't force things, there will be yards and points to be had. If he doesn't...? I'm not sure y'all want me to extrapolate that question to its logical conclusion.

Chris Pendley - Cam Sutton

Man, I dunno. I'm just annoyed I couldn't pick him last week. Does Vanderbilt pass the ball? ::checks cfbstats::

Huh. Okay then. So Vanderbilt's been low-key okay at passing lately, not doing it terribly often (which happens when you have Ralph Webb) but given the unmitigated tire fire that has been Tennessee between the tackles, maybe he can put a hand down...? Heck, I'm thinking a better approach might be to funnel him outside where Sutton can make a bunch of tackles, since it ain't like they'll be passing to him.

What's that, Sutton probably isn't at 100%? GET OUT OF THIS POST RIGHT NOW I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT.

Incipient_Senescence - Colton Jumper

Defending the run has been a struggle this last month. The Vols are down to just one scholarship DT, and linebacker has been a mess all season. But one constant in that mess, whoever else is out there, is Colton Jumper getting plenty of minutes. He's had his good plays, and he's struggled with his lateral quickness. If the Vols are going to stop Ralph Webb, they need more of the former and less of the latter.

Justin Phillips - Trevor Daniel

As much as I'd like to predict a similar thrashing of our Nashville rivals, I just do not see it happening this year. Vanderbilt does not give up points at home, and they have shown this year that they can compete with anyone in the conference. I expect a close game, and a close game means special teams will have to make the difference, starting with Trevor Daniel.

Hunter Turner -- Josh Malone

If Vanderbilt's defense plays as expected, touchdowns could be tough to come by in the red zone. Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham is a decent run-stopper in the middle of the field, so the Vols could find it a tough task to punch in touchdowns in short yardage. If that happens, Josh Dobbs will need Josh Malone and fellow red zone targets Juaun Jennings and Ethan Wolf to be at their sticky-fingered best. The best way to put away a pesky Vandy team is to score early and often-- a couple breakaway scores by Tennessee's best wide receiver would get things started off right.