Thomas Gordon: funny how Arkansas just lost..

Safety Thomas Gordon answers a lot of questions about the play of the defense: not overlooking UMass, the turnovers situation, playing so many freshmen, stopping the run, and more. And he talks about Devin Funchess.

Thomas Gordon: "After reviewing it (Sunday's film session), we know we have a lot to improve on as a defense. You know, the triple option is a tough offense to defend no matter what team it is. But we found some good points out of their game, and we're going to apply that to the rest of our games and the rest of the season."

Question: What are some of those points that you emphasize now?

Thomas Gordon: "Everybody rallying to the football—you know, you might miss a tackle here or there, but as long as you get everybody to the football, you can take a ten yard gain and live to play the next play. But you eliminate the big plays, you know, and it'll help our defense."

Question: That's something you guys were really good at last year. You feel like you're not doing it as much this year? Is everybody getting to the ball?

Thomas Gordon: "Yeah, definitely. We preach that every day in practice. We preach that all through camp. And that's one of our goals, getting to the football, and we're always going to live by that."

Question: Do you feel like you haven't been doing that as much as you want to?

Thomas Gordon: "Oh no, we have, but like I said, the triple option is pretty hard to defend, especially with one week of preparation. But that's no excuse. We signed up to play Air Force, and we didn't do our job—but next week we're going to get better."

Question: How much did you guys practice – did you practice against the option at all in pre-season camp?

Thomas Gordon: "You know, you see some forms of it, especially with our offense, but you can't really practice their triple option. It's so unique."

Question: You didn't dedicate 10 minutes here, or 20 minutes there during two a days or anything like that?

Thomas Gordon: "Yeah, you set aside some time for it; but during camp, our focus is on the first game."

Question: Are you relieved you won't have to face that again for the rest of the season?

Thomas Gordon: "Oh yeah, definitely. Like I said, it's a unique offense. But we're going to play our defense for the rest of the year, and we're looking forward."

Question: How much have you guys talked about turnovers to this point? You guys last year were so good at that; this year, not so much.

Thomas Gordon: "It's unfortunate, you know. We still preach getting to the football, and creating turnovers. That's what our mistake was with the defense. We just haven't been able to get them lately."

Question: You said that there were some good points on that film. What are some of the things that you guys like that you're doing right now?

Thomas Gordon: "We made stops when we had to. In the game, the fake field goal when they ran the option, things like that. Even though, you know, they got more yards than we wanted them to get, we made stops when we had to, and that was a good thing."

Question: Is it going to be weird possibly tackling Mike Cox Saturday?

Thomas Gordon: "It won't be weird. It's another opponent; but you know, we're all happy for Mike. He's getting his opportunity to play, and we're looking forward to playing him."

Question: What about you individually, Thomas. You mentioned in fall camp that Hoke had really issued you a personal challenge. How do you feel like you're living up to that thus far?

Thomas Gordon: "I feel like I'm living up to it. I mean, you can always play better. The expectation for myself…I always feel like I can play better, but I know I'm much better than I was last season."

Question: What were the specific things that they were asking you to do, or improve upon?

Thomas Gordon: "Like I said, many times it was me playing faster, and I feel myself playing faster. I know what's going on. Things are a lot more slow for me on the field, and hopefully that leads to me making more plays."

Question: How do you avoid overlooking U-Mass the next game, like everybody else, and that you guys are going to roll over this team? How do you avoid that, and what do you say, if anything, to the younger players who haven't been through a game like this?

Thomas Gordon: "It's really not about the opponents you play, it's how you prepare still. It's just funny how Arkansas just lost this weekend. You know, you can't overlook any opponent, and we're going into this week with that mindset, that you can't overlook any opponent."

Question: Did Coach Hoke talk to you guys about that game specifically, or that was just you?

Thomas Gordon: "No, that was just me watching TV. It was news everywhere, and it was a shocker. Nobody really expected it."

Question: At one point on Saturday there were six true freshmen on the field defensively. Brady was talking about that. What does that do for an upperclassman, when you realize there are guys that are playing in key situations? What does that do for your mindset?

Thomas Gordon: "If they're out there on the field, then that means the coaches trust them. The coaches won't put players out there that they don't trust. And it's all about competition. It doesn't matter if you're a senior or a freshman, it's competition throughout the year, not just in camp, so you have to come on a week to week basis ready to compete for the job."

Question: Have you gone against Funchess yet? What's that like?

Thomas Gordon: "Yeah. He's a real athletic guy. He's real lanky, and he has some speed on him, and you know, he's a good player. Once he gets some weight on him and stuff, and they're going to start using him at different stuff, the future looks bright for him."

Question: You see where he can make a big mismatch for some guys? Safeties, linebackers?

Thomas Gordon: "Oh yeah, definitely, because, you know, he has the size to outrun linebackers, and he's bigger than defensive backs; so that's to his advantage."

Question: Did he get you? Has he gotten you?

Thomas Gordon: "No. (Laughter)"

Question: The fact that Brady's willing to play so many freshmen, does that put more pressure on you?

Thomas Gordon: "With the more freshman out there, that's how much more you have to communicate. Those young guys being in the stadium for the first time, you know, you get those deer eyes; but, you know, as long as you're out there communicating, everybody's on the same page and you know you really won't have any problem."

Question: But are you looking back there a little bit, like ‘Wow, this guy's coming for my job'?

Thomas Gordon: "I mean, it's all about competing, you know? That's on every level that you play for. You have guys who want to be where you're at, so that should make you want to work harder, and that's how I look at it."

Question: Speaking of which—Jarrod Wilson, what have you seen out of him so far?

Thomas Gordon: "Jarrod, he's a real good player. He has a really big learning curve, and he learns fast, and that's what Coach Mattison likes about him; he's going to be a good player for us."

Question: Do you notice during the game when there are six true freshmen on defense?

Thomas Gordon: "Not really; I didn't even notice in the game. As long as I have talented guys out there who are going to fight with me, I don't really care who it is out there with me."

Question: Have you guys been tested through the air as much as you thought, or do you think people are maybe going on the ground because they respect what you guys do at the back end?

Thomas Gordon: "Obviously, so far, a lot of people have been running the ball against us; but you know, we're going to stop the run. We have to stop the run, you know. We want to win, and that's one of our keys on the defense, and that's what we have to do."

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