Mapu makes progress

Tennessee football aide Steve Caldwell recently suggested that the Vol staff would be taking a cautious approach with junior defensive tackle Jonathan Mapu, who missed the past two seasons while serving a Mormon mission.

"We'll bring him along a little bit at a time," Caldwell said. "Hopefully, by the first ball game we can get a few snaps out of him, and get a few more each game after that."

Based on the first-full scale scrimmage, however, the plan may be a little more ambitious than that. Mapu said he played "fifteen to twenty" snaps Saturday in his first game-type action in 33 months.

Although he is 40 pounds heavier (265 to 305) than when he last played for the Vols, Mapu said his stamina is improving as he works himself back into playing shape.

"It's getting up there, from when I first came back," he said. "I just have to be patient."

Because he was not allowed to work out during his two-year mission, Mapu's strength needs work, too.

"The main thing is getting into football shape, getting my strength back," he said. "It'll come as I keep going."

Jonathan Mapu took a lot of kidding from his coaches and teammates prior to Saturday's scrimmage. They knew he was a little nervous about playing for the first time in nearly three years.

"They were making fun of me," he said. "They were saying: ‘Don't get scared when you get back in that stadium and you're not used to it.'"

The kidding felt good. The chance to play again felt even better.

"It felt really great to be back on the field, be able to run around and stuff," he said. "I think I made a little progress but I've still got a long way to go."

Asked what he felt most encouraged about, Mapu answered: "Just being able to recognize the plays and getting lined up right, being where I need to be to make plays. That's something I've been able to retain."


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