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Tennessee football’s long days of summer all meant for fall

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No one knows how important it is to be ready for football season more than Tennessee center Cooper Mays.

Mays has seen offseasons filled with drama, excitement and celebrations during his career as a Vol. He’s also been a part of an injury report more times that he would care to admit, most notably against Florida last season in which Mays was out with an abdominal tear and the Vols lost in Gainesville.

“My favorite part of the year,” Mays said during the Vol Report about summer workouts. “Probably the biggest part of the year where you can the make most of your progress. This is building your body up for for the season. You know, these are the the final touches.”

Mays could use the time. Fans are probably ready for that Chattanooga game to kick off in on Aug. 31 in what is already one of the most highly anticipated seasons in Tennessee football history. Summer certainly doesn’t mean it’s time for an extended vacation.

“It’s definitely long,” Mays said of the workdays he puts in, which include football and academics.

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That is a part of Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel’s master plan. Have you noticed there haven’t been many disciplinary issues under Heupel? Busy hands can’t get into trouble.

Mays starts his day at 7 a.m. and isn’t done with his many obligations, which include NIL commitments, until much later in the afternoon. Linemen are somewhat limited in that they can’t use full pads during summer workouts. Still, Mays said that’s no excuse not to work on footwork and hand placement at about 75-percent of full go. That means the defense gets some work as well.

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The Vols are well stocked on the defensive front, but there is perhaps one player that could change the entire look of the defensive line. Mays has frequently cited defensive tackle Elijah Simmons as one of the best athletes on the team.

Simmons has been beset by injuries for most of his career. However, he certainly has the respect of his teammates as he puts his body through the summer paces.

Mays was once in Simmons’ position, a player that hadn’t reached his peak because of injury issues. Mays was saddled with one injury after another before he became an All-SEC player in 2022. Can Simmons repeat that career turnaround? Simmons only played in eight games last season. What would an athletic 6-foot-2, 340-pound defensive tackle that IS healthy do for the Vols? More than you might think.

Tennessee has good to elite players across the defensive line, led by junior James Pearce Jr. at EDGE rusher.  Some even think he might be the top NFL prospect in the country. The Vols were second best in the SEC with 3.5 sacks per game and that still resulted in a rather disappointing season last year. If truth be told, the Vols would rather give up 3.1 yards per rushing attempt, which was best in the SEC, as they did last season compared to a pile of meaningless sacks late in a blowout game. 

Those were the times in which Simmons would have probably liked to be off the the sidelines and on the field, but his body wasn’t able. That makes long summer days all the more important.

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