"Definitely having the same four starters from last year coming back is a big advantage," said junior safety Thomas Gordon. "Having some of those younger guys under our wing coming into camp, they're learning fast, and we're making strides in camp and that's the goal."
Part of the progression for the secondary is the added understanding of playing in the same scheme for the second year in a row. Gordon has personally taken to the film room after last year's season-ending meeting with his defensive coaches Greg Mattison and Curt Mallory.
"After the Sugar Bowl meeting with Coach Mattison and Coach Mallory, just getting into the film room, just sitting behind Jordan Kovacs picking him apart in every aspect of the game," said Gordon. "It really helped me."
"Just learning the defense as a whole," Gordon continued. "Once you learn the defense as a whole it allows you to play a ton faster. You know where everybody is—it might not be your spot but if you know where someone else is at it allows you to make more plays, and that's what coach Mattison is looking for."
With a much stronger grasp of their defensive responsibilities, Mattison is allowing the defensive backs to have more freedom within his scheme.
"Coach Mattison always gives us a lot of ammo to play with in our defense," Gordon said. "We like that. And we've got a lot of guys with big learning curves and they're learning pretty fast."
A big part of playing fast and effective in the secondary comes down to the front four and the amount of push that can be created, specifically in the passing game. After having the benefit of playing behind such a strong unit on the defensive line last year Gordon sees similar things happening in camp which makes his job that much easier.
"When we can get push with our front four, it takes so much stress off the DB's," said Gordon. "If we can get a push with the front four we can disguise, play around with them a little bit, and that creates more turnovers. A bigger push from the D line is easier on the DB's. Those guys are hungry and they know where they've got to step up to, and they've been doing that."
To watch video of more from Gordon after Thursday's practice, click play below.