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Josh Heupel Explains Why Trio Of Key Vols Didn’t Play At Florida

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tennessee football didn’t play a trio of players that were expected to play in Saturday night’s SEC opening loss at Florida.

We knew center Cooper Mays was questionable for the matchup after missing Tennessee’s first two games of the season, but Heupel stated that he “anticipated” Mays being available.

The senior center went through warmups before not being able to give it a go. Both Ollie Lane and Dayne Davis played in his place and both struggled against the Gators.

“Just wasn’t available tonight at the end of it (warmups),” Heupel said postgame. “Didn’t feel like he was in a position to play his best football.”

Tennessee’s centers weren’t the only offensive linemen that struggled. The Vols front five was outmanned by Florida. After splitting time at right tackle the first two games, Tennessee didn’t play Gerald Mincey against the Gators instead opting for Jeremiah Crawford.

More From RTI: Tennessee’s Loss At Florida A Disaster For All Involved

Mincey transferred to Tennessee from Florida ahead of the 2022 season and has played major snaps on the Vols’ offensive line since. Despite not playing against the Gators, Mincey was dressed out and available to play according to Heupel.

“Mincey, we just made a decision to go with JJ (Crawford) tonight,” Heupel said.

The most bizarre absence was starting cornerback Doneiko Slaughter who did not play. Tennessee did not announce Slaughter as an unavailable player before the game but Heupel said afterwards that “Doneiko wasn’t available.”

Why Slaughter was unavailable was unclear. He hasn’t dealt with any injuries, that the media knows of, to this point in the season and was fully dressed out and holding his helmet on the sidelines. Slaughter has been one of Tennessee’s best defensive backs since the back half of last season and is definitely its best tackling corner.

The Vols defense, and particularly their secondary, tackled poorly against Florida as Gators’ star running back Trevor Etienne totaled a career-high 172 yards.

Tennessee returns to the field next Saturday when they host UTSA at Neyland Stadium.

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4 Responses

  1. What a disaster. Seems like the Vols can’t play football in Florida. Show up unprepared, not ready physically or mentally. No intensity. Coaching was lacking in all phases, and pitiful with 4 seconds left in the game. If the Vols want to compete, you gotta show up

  2. All sports teams have Divas and trouble makers but Heupel blew this game!

  3. Any person who is not deaf, blind, and dumb, remembers WHY UGA refused to ever play in Gainesville again. Today, they play in Jacksonville only. The reason? The cheating refs are paid to insure the Gaydars win. I have watched the cheating every other year for 30 years. Crowd noise is a part of the game. However: Somebody look up how many FALSE START calls total were called. You can’t tell me that the ones called during key plays were all legit. Not making excuses. Just pointing out. WE MUST FOLLOW THE SAME POLICY OF UGA. It’s the only way you get a game called fairly.

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