CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Few were more ready to step back out onto the field for fall camp than former Covenant star and Virginia safety Jonas Sanker.

"It's a lot of excitement, I think guys were ready to get out there, I was definitely ready to get out there," Sanker said, "I hadn't played football in forever it feels like."

Sanker missed spring practice after having offseason shoulder surgery to repair a tear suffered before the season. UVA defensive backs coach Curome Cox takes partial blame for Sanker's injury, saying it all comes down to partial tackling technique, which is a big point of emphasis this fall.

"We say for those guys it's your ability, durability, dependability and availability," Cox said.

Only two returners for the Cavaliers started more than the nine games Sanker did last season in defensive linemen Kam Butler and Jahmeer Carter, who both started all ten games. Sanker also returns as the leading tackler on John Rudzinski's defense after racking up 63 as a sophomore, which was second only to former All-ACC linebacker Nick Jackson last season.

So there is little to question Sanker's "ability", the other three though could turn Sanker into one of the defenses' most valuable players.

"He said it best stay on the field, got to stay healthy, so I'm going to do rehab, I'm going to do everything that I can to be on the field," Sanker said, "I'm always going to be available."

Now available, Tony Elliott said "it's fun to see Jonas flying around" and teammates have come away impressed with how Sanker has returned.

"Let me just say Jonas is one of the best athletes I've ever seen," senior cornerback Coen King said, "He's a freakishly athletic guy, he's a fast learner, they moved his position this fall."

With safeties like Lex Long moved to linebacker and King moved to cornerback, Sanker has switched to the boundary safety role after mainly playing as the "SPUR" or nickel safety last season. The role has called on the former Covenant all-state quarterback to use more than his talent or feel for the game and put in the work off the field in learning the nuances of the position.

"For him I'd like to see him take the maturity of not just relying on your talent," Cox said, "From the offseason perspective, I looked at him, I said "I don't know who this young man is", he is massive in muscle, super explosive as he's always been and now he's willing to come in and put in whatever he needs to do off the field. That was his biggest maturation this year was just off the field."

Thankfully Sanker also has King to fall back on for advice after King played the position last season.

"I've been helping him out at boundary safety to learn it a little bit since he didn't play it last year," King said, "I see a lot of improvement with him and I see a high ceiling for him this year at boundary safety."

Sanker is hoping to combine all four of his "ability, durability, dependability and availability" to reach that ceiling.

"Thinking less, so understanding," Sanker said, "Not just communicate well, but now understand what the offense is trying to do. That's where I'm growing the most or trying to still grow every day."