Cade Mays’ decision could cause Vols’ entire recruiting class to fall apart

Cade Mays

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cade Mays grew up in east Tennessee and seemed destined to become a Volunteer.

His dad (Kevin Mays) played at Tennessee in the 1990s. His uncle (Michael Frogg) played at Tennessee in the 2000s. So it wasn’t a surprise that Cade, one of the nation’s most highly sought-after offensive linemen for the Class of 2018, committed to the Volunteers in the summer of 2015.

The decision was made three years before he’d ever suit up for the Vols, but his mind was made up.

We spoke with Mays during the summer, and his commitment to Tennessee was as strong as ever.

“I was watching the video of the team ‘Running through the T’ last night and I got goosebumps,” Mays told GN. “I was thinking that I can’t imagine what it is going to be like. I honestly don’t know what it is going to be like. It is going to be an unreal feeling.”

RELATED: Injuries have derailed Butch Jones’ tenure as sure as anything else

Playing at Knoxville Catholic made the Tennessee connection even deeper for Mays. It’s only a 15-minute drive from the school to the Tennessee campus, and Mays has been a fixture at home games for years.

But on Tuesday, less than seven weeks before the early signing period, Mays announced he was decommitting.

The uncertainty surrounding the future of Butch Jones and his coaching staff previously had caused four players to decommit since early October, including four-star running back Brendon Harris and four-star all-purpose back Lyn-J Dixon.

But it is difficult to overstate just how huge the loss of Mays is for Tennessee.

Mays is a U.S. Army All-American and a five-star prospect considered one of the top-15 prospects nationally; he also was the bedrock of this recruiting class. Mays basically was an extension of the Vols coaching staff, making calls and sending texts to players that he wanted to join him on the UT campus.

Mays told GN as much back in the summer: “Coach (Butch) Jones always pitched to the Tennessee guys … Georgia is winning with Georgia kids, LSU is winning with Louisiana kids, why can’t Tennessee win with Tennessee kids? I took that upon myself to pitch that to these guys, too, and see that Tennessee has got to win with you guys.”

Of course, this brings up another issue. What exactly is happening at Tennessee when local kids choose to play their college football elsewhere?

Last year, five-star wide receiver Tee Higgins, from nearby Oak Ridge (Tenn.) High, picked Clemson after previously committing to the Vols. Four-star wide receiver Amari Rodgers, from Knoxville Catholic, also turned down an offer from Tennessee. Like Higgins, he chose Clemson. Rodgers is the son of former Vols quarterback Tee Martin.

Could Mays end up at Clemson as well?

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