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Does Tennessee C Cooper Mays believe OL Lance Heard can live up to expectations?

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As the first week of spring practice winds down, there are a few new faces that will be starting their Tennessee careers this fall. One of those new players is offensive lineman Lance Heard. Have you been listening?

The sophomore transferred to Tennessee from LSU where he played in all 12 games for the Tigers in his freshman year and even started one contest. On this week’s Vol Report, we asked one returning player what challenges he thinks Heard will need to overcome as he joins a new team – and a new offense.  

Even though center Cooper Mays has played his entire collegiate career at Tennessee, he has not been immune to change. He himself had to learn a new offense when Josh Heupel became head coach in 2021. What challenges can Heard expect to face? 

“Definitely the speed of everything,” Mays said. “You know, it’s pretty obvious, like what we do with speed and our tempo and everything. But the flip side of that is everything in your mind has to be sped up by hundreds of percent, so where most people are taking 20, 25 seconds to get lined up and snap the ball, we’re taking, way less than that, maybe 5 to 10.” 

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Learning a new offense, and an uptempo one like Heupel’s, can be daunting for any player, especially a transfer. Can – or should – we expect great things from Heard in his first season with the Vols? Mays thinks we can. “Yeah, of course, you know, I think if you look at it, people (are) doing (it at) the NFL all the time,” noted Mays. “So, you look at in the NFL, people do it midweek sometimes. It’s true.” 

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What advice does a veteran like Mays give a younger player – a transfer that comes to town with some pretty big expectations? “Expectations are everywhere,” said Mays. “We have more on ourselves than anybody puts on us, I’m sure you know. So, all that stuff outside the building, outside yourself and your family, your coaches, all that stuff doesn’t really matter. You know, we’re all on a journey here and if you’re worried about what other people are thinking, then you’re wasting time.” 

With a fast-paced offense like Tennessee’s, there’s no time to dwell on the past – you have to keep moving. If Heard can do this, he will succeed with his new team. “You’ve got to be a really smart player and understand how to put whatever’s going on in your mind…you got to be able to put it behind you,” Mays advised. “You can’t be worried about what happened last play or how tired you are or whatever. You’ve got to go ahead and get into the next play and get it done at the best you can.” 

What are Mays’ personal expectations of the 6’6”, 335lb Louisiana native? “I just expect him to be a good teammate,” Mays said, “Show up and you know, do his part. I don’t really know exactly what anything looks like for him. So, I don’t have any expectations for anybody other than to just be the same guy every day.”

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