Mays

First-year Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel lucked out when starting quarterback Hendon Hooker and his favorite target Cedric Tillman both announced prior to the Music City Bowl that they were returning to the school in 2022.

Heupel, however, didn't fare so well with starting right tackle Cade Mays, who announced he was entering the NFL Draft in an Instagram post on Saturday, where he thanked his coaches and teammates.

“I am excited to continue to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL and will be entering the 2022 NFL Draft,” Mays wrote. “Tennessee will always be a part of me and I promise to make you all proud.”

Mays, a 6-foot-6, 325-pound offensive lineman, is projected as a third- or fourth-round pick. Although his mind seems all but made up, Mays admitted should he be offered an enticing sponsorship deal, he could be persuaded to return for a final season at UT and continue playing with his younger brother Cooper, a sophomore offensive lineman whom he addressed in his farewell Instagram post.

“To my brother Cooper, who would’ve thought our dreams would come true,” Mays said. “It has been the biggest honor and blessing to be able to share this experience with you. I’ll forever cherish the memories we made together.”

A two-year starter at Tennessee after transferring from Georgia, Mays was named an All-SEC second team selection by both the Associated Press and the league’s coaches this season, and he was a two-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.

At Georgia, Mays was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team by the league coaches, and he was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America.

In total, Mays started 35 games in four years with both the Vols and Bulldogs. He has starting experience at both right guard and right tackle.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_