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Tennessee's Emmanuel Moseley wraps up Florida's Jeff Driskel. UT's defense played solid throughout the game.

KNOXVILLE -- Throughout most of the offseason, it looked as if Emmanuel Moseley would start the season as one of Tennessee's starting cornerbacks.

It did not turn out that way for the freshman, but it also didn't keep Moseley from being ready in a pinch.

When starter Michael Williams left the loss to Florida with an injury a couple of weeks ago, Moseley stepped in and finished the game, and he entered last week's win against UT-Chattanooga on the game's second play -- before Williams.

"Now you see him continuing to get better and better and better," coach Butch Jones said after the Volunteers practiced indoors on Tuesday. "It's a great illustration. Just keep practicing and don't worry about anything else. When your opportunity comes, make the most of it, and that's what he's been able to do so far."

Though Moseley missed a tackle on the long run that got the Gators into position to kick a long game-winning field goal, Tennessee's coaching staff was pleased with how he handled the situation, which included a couple of tackles for loss.

"It happened real fast," the freshman said. "When Michael Williams, a great player, went to go make that tackle he got injured, and Coach called my name right away. I knew it was my time, but I was prepared. I had my chin-strap ready and went in there.

"I think I handled the pressure well."

Moseley took most of the first-team repetitions during spring practice and the first half of training camp until Williams, the walk-on track athlete from Maryland, won the job over him.

It's meant most of Moseley's playing time comes on special teams, but that could be changing.

"I've just got to continue to get better," he said.

Status updates

There were a few green noncontact jerseys sprinkled around the indoor field of the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex during Tuesday afternoon's practice.

Freshman tailback Jalen Hurd (shoulder) and receivers Josh Malone (shoulder) and Marquez North (back) were in noncontact jerseys. Hurd and Malone wore green jerseys in practices last week. North left the win against UTC in the first half after taking a hard hit to his lower back.

Tailback Marlin Lane (ankle) practiced after missing the win against the Mocs, but the senior appeared to be a little gimpy as he ran around the field.

Defensive tackle Owen Williams, who missed the last game after undergoing thumb surgery last week, also wore green, and the cast on his left hand was heavily taped.

"We'll know a little bit more probably on Thursday, but he's getting a lot of conditioning in," Jones said. "He gets the cast off, I believe, tomorrow or Thursday and gets the stitches out. There's a possibility he could be available to play on Saturday."

Surprising stat

Despite entering the season with concerns regarding an undersized and inexperienced defensive line, Tennessee ranks eighth in the country with 48 tackles for loss.

Linebackers A.J. Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Curt Maggitt account for 18.5 of those stops, but the Vols' defensive line certainly deserves some credit. Tennessee wasn 89th nationally in that category in 2013.

"We're much, much more athletic up front," Jones explained. "We're much more quicker off the ball. I think our defensive front are using their hands much better. Also our linebackers: I think the addition of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, with his speed and athleticism, has also helped.

"I think it's a combination of a lot of little things, but I think it starts, first of all, with their athleticism. They're playing with better leverage, and their get-off."

'Big challenge'

A week before facing the best receiver in college football in Alabama's Amari Cooper, Tennessee's defense must slow Ole Miss's receiving corps, one of the more underrated group of wideouts in the SEC.

Laquon Treadwell is the headliner and leads the third-ranked Rebels with 30 catches for 415 yards, but his supporting cast is plenty potent, too. Cody Core, Vince Sanders and Quincy Adeboyejo have nine touchdown catches among them, and Ole Miss also uses tight end Evan Engram and tailback Jaylen Walton in its pass game.

Tennessee limited Florida and UTC to less than 100 passing yards in its last two games, but the task will be much steeper Saturday night in Oxford.

"As a secondary, it's a big challenge for us, and we accept all challenges," Vols cornerback Cam Sutton said. "It's our job to go out there and play our game, play our style of football, be physical and cause turnovers to get the ball back to our offense."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

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