Live camp practices and scrimmages open the door to injuries, and Tennessee suffered a big one last week. Senior leader and starting center Cooper Mays went down with an injury, which required a ‘minor procedure’ to correct. That results in Mays missing at least a couple of weeks, and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to go for the opener on September 2nd.
While the injury isn’t ideal, it has allowed Josh Heupel and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee to rep multiple players at the position, building some depth ahead of the season. Veteran Ollie Lane has gotten some work in there, and so has redshirt freshman Addison Nichols.
Following Thursday’s scrimamage, Heupel updated the Mays injury.
“We believe we’ll have an opportunity to get him back,” Heupel said of Mays. “Everything has gone well since he missed training camp and had the issue that he had. But at the same time, and it’s true for every position, but in particular the offensive line, you better have contingency plans and you don’t know when that’s gonna happen. Guy gets an ankle. You guys have seen that since we’ve been here, so every week you gotta understand where you’re at going into the game, how you wanna manage and play those guys if you’re healthy, but if something happens to one of those five guys, somebody gets nicked up, who’s the next in?”
With Darnell Wright and Jerome Carvin gone, Mays and Javontez Spraggins are now the leaders of the offensive line. That unit is a potentially shaky area for Tennessee this year, without much proven depth on the roster. Obviously Mays missing any amount of time would be an issue, although Tennessee will most likely be fine until a September meeting with Florida.
“We’ve had multiple guys going at center, like I said when I talked about Cooper being out. All of those guys handled it, as far as the communication once they got the play call, in a really positive way.
“I thought our protection with the (No.) 1 group in particular has been pretty sound, for the most part. Those guys have got to continue to grow. We’ll find out as we continue to finish up training camp where we’re at, who will run out there with the first group the first game.”
Mays was named to the All-SEC Third Team by the media last month. He’s started 23 games for Tennessee, making appearances in 31 total games over the last three seasons. Mays has started 19 straight games for the Volunteers, dating back to the 2021 season where he also battled injuries.