During pre-season drills, a sprained knee kept Mapu out of action and most likely out of the opener. Mapu's status for the Fresno St. game went from questionable to out when he got word that his older brother was hit by a car and was in critical condition.
However, Mapu now looks to put what has happened in the past couple of weeks behind him and focus on football.
"It might be the best thing to get out here and get right in the middle of it," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I think that's the reason he came back. His parents wanted him to come back. In the back of his mind I'm sure there's some concern. He wants to get back into it."
As far as football goes, Fulmer is not sure how much Mapu can help the team on the field. Yet, Fulmer is confident that Mapu's presence is of some significance.
"HIs knee looks like it's going to be okay," said Fulmer. "I don't know how many snaps he could get in a ballgame but he could get a few. J.T.'s one of those guys who is a naturally tough guy. That's a plus."
In the secondary, a competitive situation continues to brew between several Vols. Sophomore Antwan Stewart should get the starting nod on Saturday at cornerback. Brandon Johnson, Jason Allen, Robert Boulware, and Jonathan Wade aren't far behind.
"I keep seeing Brandon Johnson getting better," Fulmer said. "I keep seeing Jason Allen. As we go along I'm hoping Brandon and Jason become that nickel and dime Mustang Package."
Wade is another player that Fulmer has plenty to say about. As a wide reciever, Wade posesses the speed that makes coaches salivate. As a cornerback, he has the ability to shut down part of the field. The only thing left for Fulmer to sort out is what side of the ball Wade should play on.
"Jonathan's willing to do whatever we need to do," Fulmer said. "Right now we need him on both sides." "He's come a good ways. Sheer athletic ability has always been there. His skill as a receiver has been very limited because he's never played there. He wanted to play receiver. HIs technique and hands have really come around as a receiver."
On the other hand, Wade's experience as a defensive back make him equally attractive on the other side of the ball.
"He does a lot of things naturally as a defensive back because that's what he's always played," Fulmer said. "Hopefully we'll get to the point where it's settled whether he's a receiver or a defensive back."
Finally, Fulmer noted Fresno St. had to provide i.v.'s to five players last Saturday. The Vols didn't have to administer any. Apparently, the heat didn't bother the players as much as some would have thought.