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How is Tennessee C Cooper Mays preparing the Vols’ next weapons?

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Imagine this, you’re a college freshman about to start your first season playing football for an SEC team. In high school, you were the best at your position for miles around. The big fish in the little pond. Heavily recruited. No matter how good you were or are, you are about to face a culture shock.

But, if you’re lucky, you have a veteran player on your team, like center Cooper Mays, who might be willing to help you adjust… if you’re prepared to listen and learn. 

After an extensive tenure for Tennessee, Mays has assimilated into his role as leader very naturally. But it might not be “leadership” in the textbook definition. “I don’t even know if it’s a leadership thing or whatever you want to call it, but I kind of read people in general,” Mays said on this week’s Vol Report.

“As soon as I meet somebody in the first… ten minutes, I’ve probably figured out a lot about him. Everybody’s different. You can’t treat everybody the same no matter what. You gotta play towards people’s needs and figure out the best way to communicate to them.” 

One player that Mays has a vested interest is redshirt freshman offensive lineman Vysen Lang. While it’s not Lang’s first season (he saw a few snaps last year), he’s still a relatively new player and could potentially be the second center behind Mays

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What does Mays like about Lang? What has he read into regarding the youngster? “I like how (Lang’s) so super open and available when it comes to me helping him,” Mays observed. 

“Don’t think there’s been one time where he’s looked at me when I told him something and not just been like, ‘yeah, okay’,” Mays continued. “So, I think he takes what I’m trying to help him with. And I think he knows that sometimes I may be tough, but I think he sees it for what it is. And, he’s still a young guy, I mean, he just was a freshman this past year, so he’s got a lot of years ahead of him.” 

Reading into his abilities, what does Mays think Lang needs to do to be successful this season? “I would say overall… just in body makeup and getting himself ready to play SEC football. I mean, it’s hard. Nobody’s ready to play SEC football out of the gate in high school, especially on the O-line and D-line. So just trying to get that right and get ready. And if his number gets called, he can play.” 

Back to those leadership qualities Mays embodies. Is he really that tough on his mentees? According to Mays, you don’t really have a choice otherwise. “You gotta be tough on people or else they won’t really respect what you’re saying nowadays. Usually. So, that’s fine. That’s kind of how it goes.” 

It sounds like Lang already knows.

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