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Tennessee OL has gone from concern to Vols’ strength

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It may only be mid-February and the start of Tennessee’s 2024 season seems a long way away, but of course, it’s never too early for predictions and goals. What is it about the 2024 team that some think could push them into an elite status? On this week’s Vol Report with Cooper Mays, Mays excitedly weighed in on his offense and how they will take it to the next level this upcoming fall. 

After the Citrus Bowl, talk was on the O-line. Would Mays stay or go? Would the Vols lose any players to the transfer portal? We know now that Mays is returning for his last eligible season. The talk went from concerned to, hey maybe this offense is the real deal. Mays certainly thinks so. 

“I think we will be really good,” said Mays. “I think we got a lot of experience and we gotta get some stuff right. But I think we got a really good chance to be a good O-line.” 

Even though next season will most likely showcase the arm of young quarterback Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee’s offense needs to continue what they arguably do best, run the ball.  

“I’m glad people are talking about (the run game), because I feel like most people thought that we were a passing team,” said Mays. “It seemed like people thought we were a finesse squad for these last few years. But we were the first team to run for 2500 yards three years in a row in program history.” 

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“We averaged over 200 yards a game for three years straight,” Mays continued. “It’s the first time it’s ever been done in program history. That’s pretty stout.” 

It is important to know that there will be some changes to the offense next season. Running backs Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small have both declared for the 2024 NFL draft. New faces will need to step up and fill the shoes of these two talented players. This means the O-line will need to create some chemistry with the new running backs. Mays does not think there will be any issues.  

“At this point, I kind of just do what I do,” said Mays. “I am conscientious of where I need to leverage blocks and where they need to go.” 

“So, if (the running backs) know what they’re doing, then they’ll realize that I know what they are doing as well, because everything I do is in relation to the ball and where the ball is going to be. 

At the end of the day, trust in your teammates is one major factor that will make the season a success. 

“At this point, I think they kind of trust me and trust where I go,” said Mays. It will be exciting to see which offensive players step up this season and if the run game will be as dominant as it has been the last few years.”

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