"The guys around me really did an excellent job, allowing me to make the plays," Mayo modestly explained, adding that defensive coordinator John Chavis "put me in position to make plays, and I did."
Mayo injured his ankle in preseason and has been struggling with it all fall. When it is relatively healthy, he makes plays all over the field. When it is unstable, he is pretty much a non-factor.
Consider his game-by-game performances:
Game 1 vs. Cal: 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 pass breakup
Game 2 vs. Air Force: 10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Game 3 vs. Florida: 10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack
Game 4 vs. Marshall: 12 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Game 5 vs. Memphis: 2 assists
Game 6 vs. Georgia: 0 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
Game 7 vs. Alabama: 12 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Despite the unproductive outings vs. Memphis and Georgia, Mayo ranks No. 2 among the Vols in tackles (53), first in tackles for loss (9) and first in sacks (5). The Hampton, Va., native ranks sixth among SEC defenders in tackles per game (7.6), fifth in sacks per game (0.71) and fourth in tackles for loss per game (1.29).
Only a sophomore, the super-quick 6-2, 230-pounder is emerging as one of the SEC's premier linebackers. He showed flashes of greatness as a true freshman last season – starting vs. Florida – but missed five of the last six games due to knee problems. If he ever gets completely healthy, the football world had better watch out.
"I'm a lot more comfortable now," he said, noting that fellow ‘backers Ryan Karl and Marvin Mitchell "make the game a lot more fun. The game's really slowing down for me. I feel like I'm playing fast.
"Once I get my ankle 100 percent, I feel like I can perform well each Saturday."