They appear to have hit the ground running, picking up where they left off with the spring implementation and summer study of new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik's system.
"The recall for the defensive guys has been super," head coach Larry Fedora said. "(Chizik's presence) gave them a sense of confidence and swagger from the very get go. And I think that's continued through to this point."
Depth has created quality competition, and there's a good mix on the defensive back two-deep of talented youth and hard-earned experience, both of which can be found at safety. Fifth-year senior Sam Smiley has been limited throughout his career due to injury, but he played in every game last year, starting five, and recorded 52 tackles. He's healthy and sitting atop the depth chart at free safety.
"Sam's the guy that everybody looks up to there on the back end," Fedora said. "He's got the most reps even though he's been a guy that has had a lot of adversity through his career."
On the other end of the spectrum is J.K. Britt, a true freshman from Newnan, Ga. that enrolled in January and is playing with the first team at strong safety.
"He's very mature beyond his years so he doesn't get flustered," Fedora said of Britt. "He's very intelligent. He learns in the classroom, then he is able to take it to the field and transition that way."
Overall, Fedora seems pleased with the look and play of the secondary thus far.
"They all are in great shape," Fedora said. "They can run. They are very athletic. They made some very nice plays this fall already with picks. We had two big plays yesterday with picks with (No.) 37 (T.J. Jiles) and (No.) 2 (Des Lawrence). Both of them made two big picks in a game. So it was really good."