Cooper Mays isn’t the only Tennessee Football player in the trenches dealing with an injury as the Vols get set to open the season against the Virginia Cavaliers. Josh Heupel confirmed Thursday that defensive lineman Elijah Simmons will be out for the game.
Simmons, a rising fifth-year senior who stands at 6’2″ 340 pounds, figured to be a major part of the rotation at defensive tackle this year. According to reports, he suffered an undisclosed injury in the second scrimmage of fall camp, a little over two weeks ago.
“We’ll know more (later), but a guy that has been great all training camp and really all offseason,” Heupel said of Simmons. “He’ll be out for this one. But we’ll see where that goes moving forward.”
After dealing with injuries that limited his play in 2021, Simmons was a valuable member of the rotation in 2022 as a reserve defensive tackle. Given how deep Rodney Garner wants to go up front, it’s a big deal if he’s going to be out for an extended period of time.
As for Mays, based on our sources at Off the Hook Sports, we can be pretty certain he’s not going to play this weekend. However, in his Thursday press conference, Heupel seemed to leave the door open for Mays to see action Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., at Nissan Stadium.
“We kind of make those decisions on Friday,” Heupel said. “Obviously got (one) practice left.”
Of course, Heupel is incredibly vague with his roster, to a fault. Perhaps it’s gamesmanship, but it doesn’t seem like that’s necessary when dealing with a long-term injury in the trenches ahead of a matchup with a bad team from the ACC.
Without Mays, Ollie Lane appears to be the guy ready to step in and take the snaps at center. That remains the biggest question for Tennessee Football. At least on the defensive line, though, there are numerous bodies that can step up in Simmons’ absence.
“Guys with experience are playing at a really high level,” Heupel said of the defensive tackles. “The young guys have a chance to be special players, so (we) feel good about where we’re at.”