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Heupel: Cade Mays pushing to play against Purdue

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Tennessee at Florida Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tennessee has one key injury to monitor heading into the Music City Bowl against Purdue on Thursday. Senior right tackle Cade Mays missed the final two games of the regular season with a foot injury, and his status this week is unknown.

Mays was at practice with the team on Sunday, spotted on a stationary bike during the open portion of the session.

“Yeah, I mean, he’s absolutely pushing to play,” Heupel told reporters on Sunday. “Actually was able to move around. We held him out of the padded part of it today, but we’ll see where he’s at as we get later in the week. He’s starting to move around a lot better.”

Mays has a decision to make following the game, regardless of whether or not he plays. He has the option to return for the 2022 season if he wants, thanks to his bonus COVID year of eligibility. Mays is a projected mid-round NFL Draft prospect, but has left the door open to returning to Tennessee for another season.

2021 JUCO signee Jeremiah Crawford has spent some time filling in for Mays during bowl practices.

Elsewhere, Tennessee already knows that they will be down top cornerback Alontae Taylor. The senior opted out of the game to focus on his Senior Bowl preparations ahead of the NFL Draft.

Tennessee listed Warren Burrell, Kamal Hadden and Brandon Turnage atop the cornerback depth chart on Sunday.

“Throughout the course of the season, one guy is down, the next guy steps up,” Heupel said of the cornerback situation. “Believe in the guys that we’ll play there when we get to game day. It won’t just be one guy, I don’t think, throughout the entire 60 minutes, but excited to see those guys go compete.”