Ardmore defensive coordinator Josh Newby takes a particular approach with his defensive backs.

Like Bob Stoops at Oklahoma or Nick Saban at Alabama, Newby is a former collegiate defensive back himself. He's hands-on with his DBs because he was a DB.

He's also not shy about telling them what he expects.

"He knows what he's talking about," said senior safety Carter Swanson. "He's not just chewing you out to do it. There's a purpose behind it."

Fortunately for Ardmore's secondary, the hard lessons have been fewer than last preseason. The Tigers return two starters at safety in Swanson and Rontrey Burkhalter, both seniors. To them, the offseason has been far easier because of their familiarity with the system.

Swanson, an All-Ardmoreite Super Team selection as a junior, is a three-year starter who led Ardmore with 101 tackles and 10 pass breakups last season.

"It's a lot less learning — you can just go out there and play," Swanson said of Year 3 in the starting lineup.

For the players bracketing Swanson and Burkhalter, there may require a little more learning. But first-year starters Kevion McGee and Keyshawn Brown have the talent to become breakout players for Ardmore's experienced defense.

McGee will see time at a variety of positions for Ardmore (slot back on offense, punt returner on defense) but will primarily line up as a cornerback opposite Brown.

Newby said the two least experienced players on the Tigers' defense have been impressive so far.

"I'm excited about their ability," Newby said. "We're improving on their technique, and as far as when the ball as in the air, they all have good ball skills.

"But I just want to see that killer instinct from them. When the ball is in the air, it's mine."

Burkhalter said there's a seriousness and work ethic to this season that wasn't there in 2012. What's also there is a defensive unit in front of the secondary that has one more year of experience under its belt.

An improved pass rush will equal more opportunities for turnovers. The Ardmore secondary has come down with its fair share this first week.

Brown and McGee, who each played key minutes on the Ardmore basketball team last season, each have the ability to compete for interceptions.

"I think we'll be a whole lot more competitive when we go up and get it," Brown said. "I think we'll be good."
"We've just got to stay focused," McGee said. "Like coach Newby said, focus on the little things — staying in the right spot, technique, shuffles, making sure you're there."

Newby said the difference is "night and day" between this year's secondary and the 2012 group, that Ardmore is much further along this time around.

There's also that ability to absorb a lesson. That goes a long way with a former DB to a current one.

"I can chew on them, they can look me right in the eye and they can take it," Newby said. "When I say something, they know what I'm talking about. You can tell by the way they're playing. They're playing a lot more confident."

Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD