When true freshman midterm enrollee Emmanuel Moseley trotted out with the first team for Tennessee's initial spring scrimmage, it was surprising.
Then again, very little has been predictable about the 5'11" cornerback since he committed to the Volunteers back on Sept. 10, 2013.
At the time, Moseley's pledge came out of thin air.
Head coach Butch Jones was one of the hottest names on the recruiting trail, and UT was quickly filling up a huge class. All of a sudden, news broke that the little-known Greensboro, N.C. product—then a 2-star prospect—was the newest Vol.
Many fans wondered why UT would take a commitment from Moseley then. September is normally a bit late in the recruiting cycle for evaluation gems. But Moseley had performed well at a Vols camp, defensive backs coach Willie Martinez liked him and UT followed through with an offer.
Two months since arriving in Knoxville, everybody is witnessing what the Vols first noticed in Moseley. He has blazing speed, and though his technique is a bit raw, he has limitless potential.
DB's got much better today. D as a whole got much better today. Emmanuel Moseley continues to impress. He is going to be a player— Chris Treece TSR (@christreeceshow) March 13, 2014
Moseley also has added significant weight to a frame that held 165 pounds at the time of his commitment, and according to the Knoxville News Sentinel's Evan Woodbery, the staff likes him and is "grooming the freshman for a big role in 2014."
Jones told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) last week that Moseley's first-team action wasn't a fluke.
Which "unsung" Tennessee commitment will be a breakout star in 2014?
"It's baptism under fire," Jones said. "And just with all these 14 newcomers, we're going to continue to force-feed them because we’re going to be extremely young in the fall, and they're going to have to play."
In Jones' huge class of 32, there were very few identified that the staff didn't believe could contribute right away, so Moseley's commitment flip from UNC Charlotte shouldn't have been as puzzling as it was.
But early September was a time when the Vols were in on some of the top corners in the nation, including 5-star prospect Adoree' Jackson.
As the season progressed, Moseley's assets became evident. He was a blazing dual-threat quarterback who led Dudley High School to a state championship, accounting for 2,813 total yards and 47 touchdowns, according to his UTSports bio. He also intercepted four passes.
After being named the Greensboro News & Record's player of the year, he was invited to the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Game, where he earned Defensive MVP. Moseley was upgraded to a 3-star prospect on 247Sports, and the nearby N.C. State Wolfpack offered.
Still, Moseley stuck with UT and enrolled in January. After a significant weight gain, he is firmly in the mix to play—if not start—as a true freshman.
Butch Jones likes all 14 early enrollees on campus, but the steal might be CB Emmanuel Moseley, who's already gained 18 pounds.#signingday— ESPN SEC (@ESPN_SEC) February 5, 2014
Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Patrick Brown offered an early opinion on Moseley's potential.
"That was actually one of the first things that jumped out to me in Tennessee's first practice was Moseley's speed," Brown said. "It looked to me like he still needed some work to fill out his No. 12 jersey, though. It looked a little big on him. He's already added around 20 pounds since he got on campus, but he's still pretty wiry.
"He has gotten some first-team work in walk-through periods I've seen and in the scrimmage as well. The staff wants to keep Justin Coleman at the nickel spot to solidify a position at which the Vols really struggled last season, and for that to happen, they need another corner, whether it's Moseley or Malik Foreman or Riyahd Jones to step into that spot opposite of Cam Sutton and take hold of it."
Jancek: I like Emmanuel Moseley a lot. I have been pleased with him. He's picking things up well.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 13, 2014
Right now, the two most likely candidates to play along with Sutton appear to be Moseley and Foreman. That's going to be a hotly contested battle throughout spring and offseason workouts leading up to fall drills.
Few fans would have predicted that on the day back in late summer when Moseley committed, but this staff identified him as a take when they witnessed his skill set firsthand. Turns out, he may be the steal of the class.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information via 247Sports.