KNOXVILLE – Although Tennessee has yet to hear from the SEC regarding Cade Mays’ eligibility, the Vols began their first game week of the fall expecting to have the offensive lineman for Saturday night’s season opener at South Carolina.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound junior, who transferred from Georgia during the offseason, was granted a transfer waiver by the NCAA last week.
He still needs clearance from the SEC to be able to play. While the SEC has not allowed immediate eligibility on intraconference transfers in the past, UT coach Jeremy Pruitt is preparing for Mays to be in the lineup.
“We’ve got no indication as of yet,” Pruitt said Monday during a Zoom teleconference. “I’m sure that they will (make him eligible). It just makes too much sense not to. We’ve planned all along for Cade to be able to play. If you look at what went into the waiver process it is pretty evident that the young man deserves an opportunity to play.”
Mays, who was a five-star prospect at Knoxville’s Catholic High School, started 18 games in two seasons at Georgia. He’d be an immediate starter on Tennessee’s offensive line.
Until recently, the conference also wouldn’t allow graduate transfers to be eligible immediately if they transferred within the league. UT center Brandon Kennedy, who transferred from Alabama, was one of the first exceptions. He got an extra season at Tennessee after suffering an ACL knee injury in the 2018 season opener against West Virginia.
Regardless of Mays’ eligibility, the Vols are better off for Saturday’s game (TV: SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.) than they were two weeks ago when they were missing 44 players and Pruitt canceled a scheduled scrimmage. Seven or eight players were sidelined then with active cases of COVID-19 and more than two dozen other players were unable to practice because of contact tracing protocol.
“We’ve got 50 more players that are able to play this Saturday than we had that Saturday,” Pruitt said.
Regarding other matters:
-Pruitt said running Carlin Fils-Aime is sitting out the season but might return to the team in January.
“Unfortunately, he’s had some injuries that have kept him off the field,” Pruitt said, “but (he) has been a great student, role model, good teammate and we would love to have him back.”
Fils-Aime graduated this summer.
-Pruitt said the Vols will be allowed to take 70 players to South Carolina and 70 players will play against the Gamecocks.
-Three or four players are still in the mix to play tight end on Saturday.
-Pruitt said the back-up quarterback spot behind starter Jarrett Guarantano remains open and will be decided this week in practice. J.T. Shrout has had the most practice reps, but Brian Maurer and Harrison Bailey, who have missed some time, still have a chance.
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at email@example.com.