UT Vols' Emmanuel Moseley picks right up after offseason scares

Tennessee's Emmanuel Moseley (12) comes over the top of Florida's Jeff Driskel (6) late in their game in this Oct. 4, 2014, file photo.

KNOXVILLE -- This offseason included some harrowing moments for Emmanuel Moseley.

That only made how the Tennessee cornerback played in his return to the Volunteers' spring football practices from a three-week absence even more impressive.

If the horrific-looking car accident in which Moseley and his family were involved in March, a week before the start of practice, wasn't enough of an offseason obstacle for the rising sophomore, his diagnosis of mononucleosis a week into spring gave him another moment that had to be both scary and trying.

Yet there Moseley was last Thursday, coming up with four interceptions, according to his coaches.

"Definitely not (surprised)," teammate and fellow cornerback Cam Sutton said after Saturday's practice. "We expect that from him. We don't expect anything less from him. It's just that confidence level we have in him and he has in himself. He brings it each and every play out there on the field."

A two-game starter as a freshman last season, Moseley was poised to strengthen his grip on a starting position this spring when he and his family emerged largely unscathed from the car accident.

photo Tennessee defensive back Cameron Sutton celebrates stopping Utah State on 3rd down during the Vols' season-opener football game against the Aggies on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

The Moseleys, who are from Greensboro, were traveling east toward New Bern on North Carolina's Eastern coast for a family vacation when their white SUV was hit and flipped. Moseley tweeted a picture of the aftermath of the accident. The car's roof was smashed in and the vehicle was covered in dirt after it came to rest next to a tree.

"Everyone survived, so that's the main thing," Moseley said Saturday before adding that some of his family members continue to recover from minor injuries. "I'm just happy, and blessed.

"I'm real lucky. I've got to give all thanks to God. I'm just glad everyone's OK."

A couple of weeks later, Moseley, who showed up on campus last January at 145 pounds and put on more than 30 pounds by the time last season kicked off, was tested for mono, then diagnosed with the potentially damaging disease, which has a wide range in time frame for recovery.

"I was (worried)," he said, "because I talked to a lot of people, and a lot of people said they were hospitalized for a year, or a year and half. I'm just thinking, 'Wow, that could be me.' I'm just blessed (for) another miracle that I'm back out here."

Moseley was concerned he'd drop some of the weight he'd worked so hard to add to his 5-foot-11 frame and lose the strength he'd built up over the last year.

After 10-14 days of no physical activity, Moseley was back on a stationary bike trying to regain his stamina. The credit for helping him not miss a beat while out, he said, goes to Allison Maurer, the team's nutritonist, and head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh. Those "five-star meals" at Smokey's, the state-of-the-art cafeteria inside the Vols' complex, helped, too.

"When I got back on the field, I felt like I (still) had my strength," Moseley said. "I got in the weight room the day before and I was able to do the same amounts. I was kind of happy with that."

Tennessee's coaches wanted Moseley to add strength this offseason because they felt he at times got "big-boyed," in the words of defensive coordinator John Jancek, by bigger, more physical wide receivers last season.

photo Butch Jones, left, watches practice at Haslam Field in Knoxville in this March 31, 2015, photo.

With a year in the program under his belt, Moseley believes he's more prepared now and thus is playing faster, with his reactions matching the natural speed that is his biggest gift.

"He works. That's the thing I love about Emmanuel," Jancek said last week. "He was out, he had mono, so he couldn't practice for a number of days, but he continued to stay diligent in the film room and the meetings. He came out -- this was his second practice back -- and looks good, so I'm glad to see him back out there."

Malik Foreman performed well while deputizing in Moseley's first-team spot during his absence, and incoming junior college transfer Justin Martin should push for that spot, too, come the summer and preseason training camp.

Head coach Butch Jones expects it to be one of the most competitive position battles on the team.

It became more evident to Moseley while he was out that he needed to come back and pick up where he left off.

"It was good to see other guys get inside there and step up," he said. "But I knew when I had to come back I had to be on my game."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.