Tennessee football center Cooper Mays remembers the Vols getting beat up by Alabama when he was little. He didn’t feel it was that big of a rivalry because Tennessee wasn’t often in the fight.
That’s different with Florida though. A younger Mays tuned in when the Vols and Gators faced off. Now, he is heading to the Swamp on Saturday with a chance to win in The Swamp for the first time since 2003.
“I always remember watching the Florida games,” Mays said on the Vol Report. “I always remember and like it seemed like it seemed like we didn’t win much of those either. But it seemed like we always came a lot closer and it was a really good game. So I was always I was always watching those games, but I think that was the big rivalry when I was young because I think Tebow Tebow was big back then. Eric I mean, it was there was a lot of big things going on in that matchup.”
Tennessee heads to Gainesville this week with questions on the offensive side of the ball. Joe Milton and the offense started off slow against Austin Peay. Eventually they turned it around, but two slow starts in a row raise questions.
Florida isn’t the greatest team, but a road trip in the SEC requires a team’s best at every level.
“I watched their game versus Utah, going to be going to be a dogfight down there, I’m sure,” Mays said. “No doubt about it, anytime you go down to The Swamp, it’s going to be a it’s going to be a hard, physical game. So I’m thinking that they’re going to come out playing fast and physical. I know that they got talent all over the field. I’m sure Florida always does. We’ll dive deeper into the film and and more about their scheme and everything tomorrow. But you know, Florida’s Florida, so you’re going to have to go out there and earn it one way or another.”
The road didn’t treat Tennessee well last season. The Vols struggled with the crowd noise at Georgia, suffering from several procedural penalties.
The Swamp will be loud for the SEC opener on Tuesday. Mix in the revenge factor after the Vols defeated Florida last season for the first time since 2016, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be rocking on Saturday.
“It’s going to be loud,” Mays said. “So you got to know what you’re doing and have a good, good communication and good relationship with your quarterback. And then it will all be okay. And, you know, it’ll work itself out. But definitely it’s hard, especially depending on the place you play. I think Georgia last year, that’s what killed us really. I mean, it wasn’t as much than beating us on the the field of play, but it was more of we were jumping offsides, couldn’t get our our communication right. And then that kind of stalled out our drives. So, you know, it can change the game if you have the right crowd involved.”
As for Mays, Heupel has hinted at his return for Florida. He was dressed during warmups on Saturday against Austin Peay, but he didn’t see the field.
Being off the field has been tough for the consensus leader in the offensive line room. Mays’ presence is still being felt in the locker room.
“It feels weird, you know, it’s hard to go out there and not not be able to play,” Mays said. “So I don’t know. It just hurts me to not be out there with my guys and not not be able to really be in on the action. It kind of just takes you out of it a little bit. It’s okay. It’s not the worst thing in the world. There’s a lot worse things that could be going on.”