Gators auditioning for 'Circle of Trust'

Published: Friday, September 11, 2009 at 5:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 11, 2009 at 5:45 p.m.

It's no knock on Troy University, a fine institution located in southern Alabama. Like there is any other kind of Alabama.

But what we have Saturday, no matter how many supposed NFL prospects or SEC-type players are on the Trojans' roster, is the last dress rehearsal for the Florida football team.

Next week is the true opening show when the critics will all be seated and the tickets are hard to come by. Florida vs. Tennessee is always Broadway-worthy no matter what the records are or which stars are on display.

More than anything, Saturday is the last real opportunity for Florida's coaches and its quarterback to find out the age-old college football question— who do you trust?

Certainly there will still be opportunities for other players to advance into the "Circle of Trust" as the season unfolds. We all remember — and if we don't we are often reminded by No. 15 — how David Nelson came out of nowhere in the middle of last season to become a go-to-guy in some of Florida's biggest games down the stretch.

But after Saturday, Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow will know who belongs in the Circle of Trust.

"I think so," Meyer said. "I know I trust the Pounceys. I trust Tim. Who else are we going to trust? Who is going to be the fifth or sixth lineman? Who is not going to blow a coverage because we're more multiple back there.

"So, yeah, that's what you're trying to get done."

Don't get me wrong. It will evolve as the season goes along. Who would have thought the Gators would include Carl Johnson in the Circle of Trust two games into last season? How about Brandon Hicks?

There were others who emerged as the season rolled along, over the speed bump that was Ole Miss and into the straightaway that was October, over the hill that was Alabama to the oasis in Miami. Sometimes the light doesn't come on as quickly as the coaches would like, and sometimes it takes an injury for the player to feel the sense of urgency that is required.

But after Saturday, the coaches will know who to go to battle with against Tennessee and SEC foes beyond. They'll know who will make the tough catch, who will go as hard as he can for "four-to-six seconds." They'll know who belongs in kickoff coverage and on the punt block team.

That's what these games are all about.

Now, there is always the possibility of an upset. But I'm like Meyer in that I see in the eyes of this team a level of maturity that won't allow them to look past a team that worried the coach in the preseason.

But they also know what lies ahead.

That's why Saturday is so important. It's not like a year ago when they faced a rival in game two. It's not like 2004 when the snake-bitten Ron Zook had to play Tennessee in game two because a hurricane postponed the opener. He didn't have the luxury of finding out what he had before he had to have it.

"You find some of it in fall practices, but the first few games you get a feeling for which guys you can go to in certain situations," Tebow said. "You get your timing down. That's just natural."

For example, Meyer knows he can count on Riley Cooper. He doesn't know for sure about Deonte Thompson, who dropped a deep pass in the opener.

"Better get them out early, get them out now instead of against Tennessee," Thompson said.

The main goal — get inside the circle.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at Follow on

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