Once upon a time Jadeveon Clowney might have been playing for Tennessee, headed back to South Carolina to face the home-state Gamecocks.
Back in headier days, UT frequently raided South Carolina for top talent. Defensive linemen were at the top of the list.
The 1998 national champions boasted three South Carolinians — Shaun Ellis, Darwin Walker and Jeff Coleman — in the defensive starting front four.
Shortly, Albert Haynesworth followed them to Knoxville.
In the current climate, however, wrecking balls like Clowney and Devin Taylor stay home and play for the Gamecocks.
And Saturday they will be at the top of Tennessee's to-do list.
"They're probably the most disruptive front four we have played all year,'' warned UT coach Derek Dooley.
At the edges of the front four are Clowney, a sophomore, and Taylor, a 6-foot-8 senior.
"He can wreck your game plan,'' said Dooley, "and he does it to almost every team.''
It wasn't clear whether he was speaking of Clowney or Taylor. The description applies to either.
But fortunately for Tennessee, the Vols aren't headed to a knife fight with a dull fork.
At the edge of Tennessee's offensive line are tackles Ju'Wuan James and Tiny Richardson.
"We've got some good offensive linemen, they've got some good defensive linemen,'' said Richardson.
"It's going to be a clash of the titans type deal.''
One critical way the clash will be measured is in quarterback sacks.
Tennessee has allowed but three sacks all season — one each by N.C. State, Florida and Georgia.
Only Air Force has allowed fewer (zero), largely because the Cadets run an option offense. The Vols have attempted 256 passes, Air Force 74. North Texas and Oklahoma State have also allowed only three sacks.
South Carolina's defense has recorded 29 sacks in eight games, which ranks fifth nationally.
"It's going to be a pretty good battle,'' predicted James in the understatement of the week.
Sacks are poison to an offense, almost as disruptive as a turnover. You lose yards and a down. A sack almost always wrecks a drive.
Two years ago, the Vols allowed 41 sacks in Dooley's helter-skelter first season, including six by South Carolina. James, Zach Fulton and James Stone were thrust into starting roles as true freshmen.
Last year, the total was down to 18. Now, they're juniors (joined by senior Dallas Thomas) and protecting Tyler Bray is an immense point of pride.
"Freshman year was a big learning point,'' James said. "That's half the reason why we're in the position we are.
"Coach Dooley gave us a chance to go out there and play at an early state of our career. That's paying off now.''
On the other hand, Richardson, the left tackle, is a first-year starter. But he has an NFL physique and is living up to promise UT held when it signed him.
Clowney will be his greatest challenge. The former No. 1 national recruit has quickly morphed into everybody's All-American.
"In this conference you go against good players every week,'' said Richardson. "My confidence is up and I'm going to treat like just another player.''
Just another titan, he means.