Mapu planned to take his two-year mission following his freshman season but decided to postpone.
The decision of whether to take the mission trip or return for 2004 may have weighed heavily on Mapu's mind in recent weeks. According to another report in The Tennessean, Mapu slugged teammate Ryan West, a walk-on deep snapper from Brentwood, following a recent Peach Bowl practice. Although West sustained a broken jaw that required surgery, Fulmer said the matter was handled internally. Mapu, who apologized to West and visited him in the hospital, started in the Peach Bowl a few days later.
Mapu was Tennessee's most productive defensive tackle during the last half of the 2003 season. Assuming he doesn't change his mind and return for 2004, UT's top D-tackle prospects will be Justin Harrell, Greg Jones, JUCO transfer Jesse Mahelona, Tony McDaniel, Matt McGlothlin, LaRon Harris and recruiting commitment Demonte Bolden.
DEPARTURES: The Vols appear to be losing two former Parade All-Americans from North Carolina who never panned out. Fulmer says offensive lineman Brandon Jefferies (Shelby) is no longer in school and will not be back in '04. A redshirt freshman in 2003, he never climbed above scout-squad status. Also expected to leave the program is junior safety O.J. Owens (New London). Though a big hitter, Owens was hampered by injuries and had trouble in pass coverage.