Tennessee junior offensive lineman Cade Mays will return for a second season on Rocky Top in 2021, local Knoxville radio host Jimmy Hyams of the Sports Animal reported on Thursday afternoon.
Hyams tweeted out that Mays texted him and told him “that he is returning to UT and that he will be healthy enough to participate in spring practice.”
“I am returning and will be able to do spring ball,” Mays told Hyams.
Tennessee OL Cade Mays texted me that he is returning to UT and that he will be healthy enough to participate in spring practice: `I am returning and will be able to do spring ball.’ That will help an OL that will surely miss All-American Trey Smith.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) December 31, 2020
Mays just wrapped up his first season as a Vol after transferring from Georgia following the conclusion of the 2019 season.
The junior was originally denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA, but won his appeal and only needed clearance from the SEC in order to play this season. The SEC made an exception for its long-standing intra-conference transfer rules, clearing the way for Mays to play for the Vols in their second game of the season against Missouri.
Mays joined his little brother, Cooper, on campus for the spring semester after transferring to Tennessee. Cooper Mays signed with the Vols during the 2020 recruiting cycle as a four-star center out of Knoxville Catholic High School. Cade Mays played at Knoxville Catholic as well, but signed with Georgia out of high school following the firing of Butch Jones. Mays was once committed to the Vols but decommitted prior to Jones’ firing.
Mays was ranked the No. 22 overall player in the class of 2018 according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He was considered the No. 1 player in the state of Tennessee and the No. 3 offensive tackle in the country.
At Georgia, Mays started six games at right guard, two at right tackle, two at left guard, and one at left tackle as a sophomore this past season, and he even played at center in the Bulldogs’ match-up with Missouri. Mays played in all 14 games this season after playing in 11 of 14 games as a true freshman a season ago. He was named to the coaches’ All-SEC Freshman team in 2018 and was a Freshman All-American as well.
Cade and Cooper’s father, Kevin Mays, played for Tennessee from 1991-1994. He was an All-SEC guard and offensive captain in 1994.
The return of Cade Mays is significant for a Tennessee offensive line that will be losing Trey Smith to graduation. Smith is one of four seniors along the o-line, joining Brandon Kennedy, Jahmir Johnson and Riley Locklear. Kennedy, Johnson and Locklear have not announced whether they’ll take advantage of the free year of eligibility and return for a second senior season with the Vols.
Mays will have a new offensive line coach in his second season as a Vol. Will Friend, who served as Jeremy Pruitt’s o-line coach during the first three years of his tenure, accepted the same job at South Carolina on Shane Beamer’s initial staff.