As a result of Mayo's brilliance, the 6-1, 215-pound McCoy has seen his playing time dwindle in recent weeks. He registered one assist in Game 6 vs. Georgia, one tackle in Game 7 vs. Alabama and one tackle in Game 8 vs. South Carolina.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis concedes that McCoy is far too talented to be spending so much time on the bench.
"Rico McCoy probably should've played a lot more football than he's played this year," the coordinator said. "Rico's an outstanding football player. It's been tough because of the youth but he should've played a lot more football.
"I intended to play him a lot more against Alabama but Mayo was playing outstanding and I didn't want to take him out of the game. Mayo played the same way last week but we've got to find a way to get Rico McCoy in the game."
Whereas being stuck behind a red-hot veteran has kept McCoy off the field, a strained knee has kept Coker out of action lately. Prior to the injury, he ran for 146 yards in Game 4 against Marshall, 125 in Game 5 at Memphis and 57 in Game 6 at Georgia.
Coker hurt his knee in Game 7 against Alabama after carrying just five times for 12 yards, then sat out last week's game at South Carolina. The preliminary diagnosis suggested he might miss the rest of UT's regular-season schedule but the revised outlook is much more positive.
"I don't think he will make it back this week," head coach Phillip Fulmer said, "but I'm optimistic about him possibly being back the next game (Nov. 11 at Arkansas). He's trying to fight through it."
There's no doubt that McCoy and Coker are keys to Tennessee's future. The challenge is getting them more involved in Tennessee's present.