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Tennessee’s preseason All-Americans are far different Vols

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Tennessee’s football players are sure to receive preseason award recognition. That comes with being one of the top football programs in the nation.

Center Cooper Mays and defensive lineman James Pearce, Jr., are the latest two Vols to receive honors, from the Walter Camp Foundation as preseason first-team All Americans. Oddly enough, the two Vol stars couldn’t be more different.

Let’s start with the nature of their position. Mays is expected to be calm and in control. Pearce is expected to wreak havoc. Calm isn’t expected when Pearce is on the field. With Mays, it’s a must. Then, there is their athletic ability.

No offense to Mays, but he’d tell you that he’s not nearly as athletic as Pearce, who is a phenom on the field and may just go No. 1 overall in the 2025 NFL Draft, as some have projected.

The two have also been a bit different off of the field. Pearce was involved in a somewhat messy traffic incident in which he was arrested last year. The case has since been resolved and the charges have been dropped. Mays, however, seems intent on staying out of trouble and is more content playing video games than hitting the town. However, the two do have one thing in common; they are at the middle of the immense optimism for the Vols this season and, hopefully for Tennessee’s players, into the playoffs.

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Looking for a sign that the Vols are on their way back to national prominence?

Tennessee was one of six programs to produce multiple first-team All-Americans, joining Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. That’s pretty astute company. All of the above schools, including Tennessee, consider themselves national championship contenders.

Mays’ career has been nothing short of remarkable. The Knoxville native enters his fifth season as a Vol and fourth as Tennessee’s starting center despite being deemed undersized coming out of Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic High School. Mays has used the recruiting criticism as motivation since he became a Vol. He still has this message pinned to his Twitter page.

Mays hasn’t allowed a sack in his last 14 games. He has played 2,075 career offensive snaps and been tagged with only four sacks. That’s consistency. Looking for explosiveness? Pearce may be your man.

In two seasons, the five-star prospect from Chambers High School in Charlotte, N.C., has racked up 16.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, 17 quarterback hurries, one interception for a touchdown, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Pearce is the SEC’s returning statistical leader in both tackles for loss, 14.5, and sacks, ten.

Mays and Pearce may be far different, but they have one common goal, for the Vols to win a national championship. Anything else and preseason awards will ring just a bit hollow.

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