In a flash during a scrimmage last fall safety Fred Holton's 2011 season ended before the games even began. Holton tore his Achilles tendon after clawing up the depth chart into a starting position. Twelve months later Holton is back on track to start when the Jackets head up to Virginia Tech on Labor Day and he says that he feels better than ever.
"I felt that at the end of spring I was back at 100-percent and I feel like I am better than I was before," Holton said. "I am just going to take that same confidence I had before out there and build on it."
Holton says the whole secondary has bonded together over the last year and that depth and skill level of the entire group is very impressive.
"We are just lifting each other up and really we have great athletes back there that can play multiple positions. I feel like we can put any of the defensive backs out there in any position and they will perform as well as the starter," he said.
Like most of the players Holton had trouble learning defensive coordinator Al Groh's 3-4 defensive scheme his first few years. With three years under his belt now, Holton says everything is clicking for him.
"In the beginning it was tough learning the defense, but I feel like I am making progress with that and getting everyone lined up and knowing who goes where," Holton said. "Our safeties do pretty much the same thing on both sides depending on where the strength is and our job is to know every position back there so if we ever get thrown into a different role we will know what to do."
Holton said the younger defensive backs like Jamal Golden and Demond Smith are coming along and have impressed him with the way they have picked up the 3-4 defense.
"It was tough for the freshmen and it was really tough for me at that age too, but they are coming up with the correct answers to questions and they know what to do and where to go so I feel like they will be an asset for our defense," he said.
Despite missing the entire 2011 season, Holton is the second most experience safety on the team with his fellow 2010 signee Isaiah Johnson. Holton says being the veteran guy has been one of the strangest things about going through spring and fall camp.
"Just a couple of years ago I was the newcomer and the shy guy. I didn't know what was going on and now I am the guy who knows what's going on so I am able to teach the other guys," he said.
After redshirting as a sophomore, Holton is hoping to make a grand return on Labor Day when he could make his first career start as a Yellow Jacket.
"The competition is friendly and we are all competing and that is what we need to do to make ourselves better," he said. "I am pushing to start at Blacksburg and I am not going to say I have the spot locked down because I don't, so I am just going to keep working hard and working toward the starting job."