Tennessee center Cooper Mays could play against Florida on Saturday. Then, again he may not.
UT coach Josh Heupel was non-committal about the preseason All-SEC player returning to the lineup against the Gators this week.
“He was with us last week,” Heupel said during his Monday press conference following the 30-13 win over Austin Peay. “Warmed up with us. We made a decision pretty early in the week that he probably would not play in that football game. And, anticipate him having a good week of practice here, getting ready.”
While Tennessee is hopeful that Mays could play, there is a real likelihood that he won’t be able to hit the field after suffering an undisclosed injury in preseason camp. Mays has been replaced by senior Ollie Lane, who was slated to start at left guard. In Lane’s place, transfer Andrej Kuric has filled in as the Vols have played admirably despite Mays’ absence.
Tennessee has only given up two sacks this season, which ranks second best in the SEC along with Kentucky and Texas A&M. Georgia leads the conference in sacks allowed with just one.
As for the running game, the Vols are averaging 257 yards per game, which is tops in the SEC. Tennessee is also first in the SEC in yards gained per rushing attempt with 6.13 yards per carry. No other SEC team has averaged over six yards per carry.
As odd as it seems, the Vols might not need Mays this week against the Gators. Tennessee has been named an -8.5 favorite in The Swamp.
Tennessee hasn’t won at Florida since 2003. Heupel’s first trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as UT’s head coach ended in a 38-14 loss to the Gators.
When asked what he remembered about that trip, Heupel said,
“First of all, they’re always really athletic. They’re physical at the line of scrimmage. It’s a great environment at the end of the day in this game. And yesterday has nothing to do with today. The previous game, our previous play has nothing to do with what’s gonna happen on the next play. It’s about, preparing the right way, practicing the right way that will lead to you playing the right way.”