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Tennessee just lost its best offensive player for Butch Jones’ most crucial game

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John Kelly is one of two Vols suspended for Saturday’s game against Kentucky.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A tough task for Butch Jones just got even harder. With his tenure as Tennessee head coach hanging on by a thread, the Vols play Kentucky next. The Wildcats are a 4.5-point favorite heading into the game, and things aren’t going to get any easier for Tennessee now that running back John Kelly has been suspended along with freshman linebacker WIll Ignont. Both were cited for Marijuana possession in a traffic stop.

Losing Kelly is, frankly, a crushing blow for the Vols. He is quite easily the best playmaker Tennessee has, and he gives the offense an explosive dimension it needs, particularly with redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano still trying to find his footing at quarterback.

Kelly’s special, and can do stuff like decelerating mid-play to size someone up before blowing by most of an entire defense.

For Jones, a bad season is only getting worse. He simply cannot lose to Kentucky on Saturday.

The Vols are 3-4. That’s bad, and it looks worse when piled atop a 4-4 finish after last season’s 5-0 start. Jones is in Year 5, which is certainly past the point where if a coach isn’t moving his program forward, he’s moving it backward. Jones will leave Tennessee better than he found it, but that doesn’t mean new athletic director John Currie has to keep him.

The Wildcats aren’t exactly world-beaters, but Kelly’s absence makes a Tennessee offense which is already perplexingly bad in the red zone even easier to stop.