Mayo had a fantastic junior season as Tennessee's middle linebacker in 2007. The 6-2, 230-pounder recorded a team-high 127 tackles – nearly 10 per game on average – with a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss. He also returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown, recorded 1.5 sacks, 5 hurries, 2 pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Other than Jerod Mayo himself, no one has a bigger stake in Mayo's go-or-stay decision than Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis. Mayo is the bell cow of Chavis' 2007 defense and the guy around whom the 2008 stop unit is sure to be built ... IF he chooses to return.
Naturally, Chavis would love to have Mayo stick around for another year. Even so, the veteran coordinator is keeping a low profile as his star player mulls the biggest decision of his young life.
"The thing we've talked about is making sure he gets good information," Chavis said recently. "Then he's got to make a decision off his good information. There's been players in the past that it's been obvious that the information they got from some sources was not (accurate)."
Foremost among these was former Vol tight end Jason Witten. Assured he would be a first-round NFL Draft pick, Witten bypassed his senior year at UT only to last until Round 3 of the 2003 draft. Going pro early cost him his senior year of college and perhaps a million dollars in signing bonuses.
Chavis is convinced Mayo will make an informed decision.
"He's smart. He'll do the right thing," the coordinator said. "I'm for him. He's given us a tremendous amount here in this program. If he decides he wants to come back – his heart's in this program – that's what I want.
"But I'm not going to advise him. Anything he asks me I'm going to give him my opinion. But, as far as advising him, I'm not going to do that."
Given that he has such a vested interest in Mayo's return, Chavis might seem an unlikely source for an objective opinion. Telling your star player he SHOULD jump to the NFL would have to be tough, right?
"It's not tough," Chavis said. "Obviously, they've got to do what they feel is right. He's a young man now. Personally, I'd like to see him back because it would be fun to coach him, and I think there's a lot of things he can achieve.
"But I'm going to support him, whatever he does. That's the approach you've got to have – just like you would your own (kids) at home. You try to give them the best information to make the best decision they can make.
"Then, when they make it, you support that decision."