No pressure, right?
Tennessee's Demetrice Morley IS a young defensive back who IS preparing to face all of the above Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. Seventh-ranked Florida, led by passing whiz Chris Leak, will be on hand, along with a crowd of 107,000 screaming zealots.
Is Morley, who hails from Miami, concerned about making his first college start in such a pressure-packed atmosphere? Nope.
"It's going to be fun," he said, grinning broadly. "I've always felt like everybody in the secondary was a starter, so I don't feel like this is a big challenge to me. I just feel like I've got to be more focused and confident. I know my teammates have confidence that I can go out there and do what I need to do to get the work done."
Morley, a 6-2, 195-pound sophomore, might be the most talented athlete on Tennessee's roster. He hasn't started previously because he was stuck behind senior defensive backs Antwan Stewart and Jonathan Wade, along with juniors Jonathan Hefney and Inquoris Johnson. Now that Johnson is out for the season, Hefney has moved to cornerback, leaving Morley to assume the first-team role at free safety.
Although Morley has not started previously, he is no novice. He played enough in Games 1 and 2 this fall to record three tackles, an assist and a pass breakup. That's why he says the prospect of starting for the first time isn't upsetting his stomach.
"I don't have no butterflies,"he said. "I've been getting some playing time already, so I don't get butterflies."
Now that Morley is being pressed into service, Tennessee's other defensive backs are rallying around him to provide encouragement, advice and support.
"All of the older guys are always helping me out – Twan (Stewart), Hefney, J. Wade,"Morley said. "They're always making sure I'm ready. We get in each other's face to get ready for practice and games. We have to be focused out there."
Morley seems supremely confident heading into his first start. He might feel a little more nervous, though, when he steps onto the field Saturday night with a national TV audience watching and Chris Leak looking to exploit him. Clearly, Morley's coming-out party is going to be held on a grand stage.
"It's not a small stage,"he conceded, "but I feel the coaches have confidence in me. The players have confidence in me. And I have confidence in myself. That's three confidences, so I feel I must be ready."