It’s completely understandable if Tennessee Football center Cooper Mays was a bit out of sorts on Saturday. Instead of leading his team in the Vols’ season-opening win against Virginia, Mays was standing on the sideline. It was a bit surreal.
“I don’t even know if it was really like emotions,” Mays said of what was going through his head as he was sidelined with an undisclosed illness in the Vols’ 49-13 win against the Cavaliers in Nashville on Saturday. “It was more just like feeling odd. You know it feels weird. That’s that’s the best way I could describe it.
“I don’t know if I was like sad or mad or whatever. It wasn’t really that. It was just like you just feel so odd and weird about it because all this time you’ve been available and ready to go most of the time. So just not being out there with your guys, it doesn’t feel right.”
There isn’t a strict timetable for Mays’ return, although the Florida game on Sept. 16 in Gainesville is the goal. The Vols will be a heavy favorite against Austin Peay in Tennessee’s home opener so there’s no need in playing Mays this week.
Instead, the senior will be coaching and cheering on his players against the Governors as he was on Saturday.
“It was basically like a home game for us,” Mays said. “So we had a lot of guys on the sideline, like a ton of guys and then you did all the the big screens that are stopping our people from sealing our signals and then you got all the staff and everything.
“It was hard for me to really get a good view of anything. But there was some stuff I could see and some stuff that that we were coaching up on the sidelines.
Mays’ injury occurred at an opportune time during preseason camp – if there’s ever a good time for something like that. Tennessee Football still had three weeks to prepare for the season and Virginia when it was announced Mays would be sidelined for an undisclosed amount of time. That allowed his replacements, primarily Ollie Lane then Dayne Davis, to get more practice repetitions before the season began. Whatever the Vols did seemed to work.
Tennessee manhandled a veteran Virginia defensive line and provided a solid pocket for quarterback Joe Milton III. The Vols were never in danger of losing the game against Virginia as they took an early 7-0 lead on their first possession and continued to build upon it.