Versatility of Carvin, Mays giving Elarbee options for Tennessee

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee fifth-year senior Jerome Carvin has 17 career starts at guard for the Volunteers but has been getting a lot of work at center this preseason.

Tennessee's quarterbacks, running backs and receivers have been outspoken since the spring about how much they enjoy Josh Heupel's rapid offensive attack.

Yet how do the offensive linemen feel about it? After all, they're the ones approaching or in excess of 300 pounds hustling to keep up with the next snap.

"Offensive linemen like this offense just to tire the defense," 6-foot-5, 313-pound senior Jerome Carvin said Monday in a news conference. "It really works. You really saw it in the spring game, and you're definitely going to see it in the fall. Once we get it rolling, the defenses are going to get tired, and they're not going to get lined up or set.

"We're going to be snapping the ball and ready to roll."

Just don't ask the linemen who's emerging in the four-man quarterback battle.

"I don't know who's behind me half of the time," 6-3, 295-pound sophomore center Cooper Mays said.

Compiling the best five up front is the job of new Volunteers line coach Glen Elarbee, who has quite the puzzle to construct but believes he has as many as nine or 10 pieces with which to work. Tennessee knew it would be losing veterans Trey Smith and Brandon Kennedy off last year's team, but the NCAA transfer portal became quite active with Wanya Morris transferring to Oklahoma and Jahmir Johnson to Texas A&M.

Then Riley Locklear decided just before the start of preseason camp that he was giving up football due to multiple medical setbacks.

"I do think we are deep," Elarbee said. "We have four or five guys who are slugging it out at guard, and it's the same thing at tackle. I'm going to go old school and say we've identified no starters since we haven't had a scrimmage.

"We are really pushing that it's the best five every single day, and obviously everybody knows a couple of those guys with the way they practice and the way they compete."

It's no secret those guys are Carvin, a 17-game starter at guard, and fellow senior Cade Mays (6-6, 325), who played his first two years at Georgia before transferring and becoming eligible before last season's second game against Missouri. Though Cooper Mays, Cade's younger brother, made a pair of starts at center last season, Carvin has been getting his share of work there as well.

The elder Mays played all five positions at Georgia, with that versatility going a long way in him earning preseason All-SEC first-team recognition last month.

"Those guys give you enough flexibility that you're deeper than you would be if just one guy was backing up one position," Elarbee said. "If it turns out where the best five turn out with JC at center and with Cade inside at one of the guards, that's the way the best five go out. Jerome is very, very comfortable with either one of them, and it helps us be super competitive."

Darnell Wright (6-6, 335), K'Rojhn Calbert (6-5, 325) and former walk-on Dayne Davis (6-7, 325) entered camp as the top tackle candidates should guard be the home for Cade Mays, but Calbert reportedly suffered a recent biceps injury that could knock the 6-5, 325-pound, fifth-year senior out for the season.

Elarbee was asked about Calbert on Monday and replied, "I feel like Coach Heupel was the one who is to speak on those type of things, so I'm not going to make a comment on that." He is hoping to get some kind of pecking order after Thursday's first scrimmage, though many of the candidates admit there is still an element of settling in.

"The first two days, I was basically out there dying," Cooper Mays said. "These last two I've been feeling pretty good, so we can take that for what it is. I've been getting adjusted to the heat and the tempo."

Ericson sidelined

Although preseason practices have started around the Southeastern Conference, this is still the time of year when no news can be good news.

Multiple media outlets are reporting that Georgia junior offensive lineman Warren Ericson (6-4, 305) suffered an injury to his left hand this past weekend that could keep him sidelined for a few weeks. Ericson played in nine of 10 games last season and started at center in the final two contests, which were wins at Missouri and against Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Redshirt freshman Sedrick Van Pran (6-4, 310) is the most likely candidate to fill the void for Ericson.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.