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Cooper Mays sidelined for ‘a couple weeks’ after procedure

Hopefully he’ll be back by the opener.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Training camp is here and in full swing, and unfortunately that means the injury bug is as well. Tennessee suffered their first major injury this week, as starting center Cooper Mays was unable to participate in today’s scrimmage.

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel explained his absence during today’s press conference.

“Coop had a minor procedure late yesterday and he’ll be back, he’ll be healthy as we get close to kickoff,” Heupel said after Thursday’s scrimmage. “Anticipate that being a couple-week deal.

“Today, we rotated through a bunch of guys. Ollie, Parker Ball, young guys – Vysen, Addison Nichols. And those guys are all competing for those spots. All of those guys have taken some reps even when Cooper’s here, too, as we continue to look for that backup center spot.”

Mays is now the key leader on the offensive line, entering year three in Heupel’s offense. Darnell Wright and Jerome Carvin moved on, leaving Mays and Javontez Spraggins as the leaders for the Vols up front.

Should Mays be forced to miss any game time, former four-star prospect Addison Nichols would be the likely fill-in. Nichols arrived at Tennessee and immediately began learning the center position for times like these.

“I think having to move some pieces around a little bit, guys working at guard, at center – it’s tough because you’re in multiple situations,” Heupel said. “It’s not like you’re just going into a day. Depending on the period, we kind of cycle through so they get a little bit of that throughout the course of every single practice. You want practice to be more difficult than it is on game day, so as we try to put the pieces together and how guys are going to play, in the long run it’s going to make us a lot stronger unit.”

Mays, the 6-3, 305 pound senior, has started 23 games in his career.

Tennessee opens with Virginia in Nashville on September 2nd, which is now just a little over three weeks away.