6’3″ 295 pounds
Yes, the top two players on our list were members of Tennessee football’s 2020 recruiting class out of Knoxville Catholic High School in Knox County. Not only are they local, but they were both four-stars across the board in the trenches.
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Cooper Mays is the one sophomore on the team who absolutely has to be successful. With the departure of Brandon Kennedy, he’s the only player who is proven at center. That’s a key position on the offensive line no matter what, but in Josh Heupel’s system, it’s even more important, so Mays’ success isn’t a random projection. It’s necessary.
Last year, Mays made two starts at center and appeared in all 10 games. He was a key part of the rotation. This year, he is the main guy up front and has to be able to perform at a high level. In fact, he’s more important than his brother, Cade Mays, who may be the best player on the Vols.
The son of legendary UT offensive lineman Kevin Mays has already proven himself to a degree. Expectations were always there for him to have success. Now, starting alongside his brother, a superstar, he should thrive up front. That’s what makes him the top-rated sophomore on the Vols entering the 2021 season.
There are plenty of other sophomores for Tennessee football who could be emerging stars this year. However, Mays is one who needs to be an emerging star. That combined with his potential and proven production is why he tops this list.