Posted: 11:44 am Friday, March 21st, 2014

Q&A: J.J. Green plans on coming through for Dogs on defense 

By Chip Towers

JJGreen(JasonGetz)

Georgia’s J.J. Green could end up starting in the defensive backfield a year after starting two games as a freshman tailback. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

ATHENS – Georgia’s J.J. Green is one of those delightful young men you simply enjoy running across every now and then in this business.

College football and the entitlement and idolatry that comes with it can sometimes rob these elite athletes of their joy, or at least that which they reveal to reporters. That’s definitely not the case with Green.

It’s evident that he is simply happy to be where he is and doing what he does. At the moment that’s play defensive back for the Bulldogs.

You’ll recall that Green was asked to play tailback last season, and he did it well. He came to Georgia out of Camden County as the proverbial “athlete,” with thoughts of him playing a slot-receiver position or possibly cornerback. But after Ken Malcome transferred and it became obvious that depth may be a concern in 2013, the Bulldogs decided to see what he could do at tailback.

Green came through in a big way. After Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall went down with early-season injuries, Green and fellow freshman Brendan Douglas were asked to carry the load in the backfield. And The 5-foot-9, 183-pound Green proved to be a dynamic play-maker carrying the football.

Green ended up starting two games and playing in all 13 on offense. He rushed for 384 yards — with a 5.6-yards per carry average — and scored three touchdowns. He also had 104 yards on 12 pass catches. Green had 17 carries in a win at Tennessee and 129 yards in a win over North Texas. He also ended up being the Bulldogs’ best kicker returner, averaging 24 yards on seven kickoff returns, including a 48-yarder against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.

The point is, Green was quite proficient at filling that role. And with the Bulldogs’ big guns still hobbled heading into next season, Georgia certainly could have continued to use him in that role.

But new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had recruited Green as a defensive back while Pruitt was at FSU last year. And he wanted Green back on his side of the ball here at Georgia. He approached Green after one of the Bulldogs’ mat drills last month about playing defense again.

Green’s response: “Sure.”

So far Green has had only two on-field practices with the defensive backs. Early on at least, he’s playing left cornerback and working with the No. 1 unit at the ballyhooed “star” position, or nickelback to most of the rest of us.

Green was among the defensive players I interviewed after Thursday’s practice. Here’s some of the highlights from this upbeat and optimistic young man:

Q: What has it been like playing on Jeremy Pruitt’s defense?

A: “You could say intense. Coach Pruitt wanted to make a point that first day practice that he was all about his business. But it went well. I learned a lot about the defense and started making some calls here and there and in the nickel packages. So it’s going well.”

Q: What went into the decision to move to defensive back?

A: “I thought about it. It was just a thing I wanted to do after the bowl game. I thought, ‘I could go to defense now. I could show them what I can do.’ One day after mat drills the coaches asked me, ‘you wanna play defense?’ I said, ‘yeah.’ So it was really my choice. If I didn’t want to play I could have stayed at running back.”

Q: Did they promise you some playing time if you moved over there?

A: “Nobody knows about playing time. Coach Pruitt just said nobody’s a starter right now. He’s just trying to put everybody in different places so he can look at them on film. So everybody’s going  with the 1s, 2s and 3s and he’s evaluating every play. Right now I’ve just got to show I can play, be physical with the receivers and help with the run. They’re just seeing who can ball out.”

Q: Have you found it difficult to have to cram to learn the defense after having to pack in all that new knowledge on the offensive playbook last year?

A: “I mean everybody on the defense right now is learning Pruitt’s system. So step by step we’re just learning what to do. Right now he doesn’t want us in the playbook. He just wants us to perfect our craft. He doesn’t want us thinking about the play call. So we’re just going with the flow.”

33 comments
Christ-mas
Christ-mas

wow....a positive story from Towers about UGA.  Stunning.

Still got in a shot at collegiate athletics at the beginning.

There is an underlying agenda with Mr. Towers.  He generally

hates the way athletics are put in such high esteem.  I might

agree that it can have negative issues but so does the way academic

sides of college work and function as well.

dawgman912
dawgman912

Georgia also has AJ Thurman who redshirted......Maybe he is about to push for playing time.....

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

Tampa Gator.....nobody says 'book it' anymore!  It is sooo 1990's.

TouchdownGurley
TouchdownGurley

J.J. has a good attitude and seems like a good guy. We certainly need the help at corner, and hopefully he can provide it. I'm hoping he's good enough to either earn a starting spot or play a lot at corner or the star. Honestly though, I'm not sure Georgia could really use him at tailback... To me that depends on how well Turman, Chubb and Michel develop and how Marshall's knee is once the season gets underway. Douglas isn't a bad back either. So I doubt he would have played very much unless Marshall's knee was flaring up on him... But at running back, you never know how many guys are going to get hurt. I just think this is going to end up being a great move for JJ. Best of luck, JJ! 

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Like a pep rally on here tonight, the punch is spiked.

TampGator1
TampGator1

With this 5'9" addition to the Dawgs secondary, Georgia now wins the spring practice national championship.  "Book it,"      

ErkMunson
ErkMunson

Most of these guys have the physical abilities to play multiple positions, but it ultimately comes down to attitude. Are you going to "ball out" and GATA? If so, you will make the DGD list and be loved by the Dawg Nation long after leaving the hedges. Green seems to get it!

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

I like this move because of J.J.'s attitude.  That sold me that he will be on the field every game at some position.  I just love players like this.  You can steal a few wins with guys like Mr Green.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Pruitt has seen enough of his current crop of DB's to understand he needs help at a spot or two. The 1st two weeks of spring drills is the time to try this or that and see how a position change works. Saban does this every spring and the reason he's seen a weak spot he needs to address more than say a player getting more snaps. Within two more weeks you will know if the swap is going well for JJ otherwise he will be moved back to offense.

ARdawg
ARdawg

JJ is a guy we need on the field no matter which side of the ball he's playing. He's an athlete and will perform no matter what he's doing

thebucket
thebucket

I agree that Green is a DGD and he will work hard enough to find the field whichever side of the ball he is on. I don't have a problem with the switch as long as the coaches and Green are ok with it. However, I guess I am a little skeptical about all the reasons behind the move. Some of you have already noted that we have recruited well at running back and so there should be plenty of depth there without Green. But I just looked over the roster for next season and I counted no less than 9 corners! I understand that our corners weren't great last year, but some of that can be attributed to youth and scheme in my opinion. Perhaps Pruitt is just not sold on any of those guys and wants to see what Green can do now that we can afford to lose him on offense. I guess my point is I hope there is not a reason for this switch that we don't know yet.

McDawg
McDawg

pound for pound he was the toughest player we had --i don't think he received enough recognition for what he accomplished last year 

Match369
Match369

Secondary needs all the help they can get.

Match369
Match369

I agree ith you guys our secondary needs all the hel they can get but don't forget about my man Parrish comin into the fold he's a pure athlete.  Go Dogs

bulldawg14
bulldawg14

I like this kid a lot. His attitude, his selflessness, his versatility. Very impressed with this kid and looking forward to see what he can do on the other side of the ball. Lord knows our secondary needs a pick-me-up or two... or three...

Contractor1
Contractor1

I'm not watching Georgia every single day or anything, but I could be wrong, but does this not sound like the goofy move? With Gurley coming back, Douglas back there, the two new guys, doesn't this seen a little premature? I have heard Marshall may redshirt to completely heal, basically leaving two guys, in which one was hurt off and on all last year. So Georgia plans to rely on two freshmen to step in I guess? Just wasn't sure what Georgia fans thought about this.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Quackmeyer  

I was gonna say, the ridiculous "Book it!" continues to be gospel to 350.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@TampGator1  Morris Claiborne (All-American LSU corner and 1st round draft pick) was about 5'10 1/2, around 185. He was shutdown material. 

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@TampGator1  So he can't be productive because of his height? Man you need to get out more! 

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Getting your best folks in the right spot is huge. Having a new man in charge of defense gets all players back to square one which can be good.

BigGAdawg
BigGAdawg

@Contractor1 The two freshmen, Michel & Chubb, are above average to say the least.  And so were Gurley and Marshall a couple of years ago.  If they are anywhere near as good as them we would be just fine.


Douglas does not have Gurley's speed, to get around the end, but he runs hard up the middle--like a cannon ball--I expect to see him getting play in a variety of situations.  I find the idea of Gurley and hopefully Marshall being augmented by Michel, Chubb, and Douglas to be a delightful prospect.  Almost an embarrassment of riches, barring any further injuries.  After last year I think we are due for a relatively injury free season--I hope, I hope, I hope.

TouchdownGurley
TouchdownGurley

@Contractor1  I'm not giving up hope that Marshall can play a lot this season. He may be rusty early on, but I don't think he'll have to red shirt. We also have a red shirt freshman in A.J. Turman who Gurley has said was a "beast" and my guess is one of the two high-profile running backs we signed can be a good #2 or #3 back if they earn it or if injuries make that the case. Our secondary was horrific, so we need much more help there in my opinion. 

bulldawg14
bulldawg14

@Contractor1  I got a feeling the 2 freshmen RB's will be plenty capable of holding their own. We obviously won't know for sure until they start playing though so who knows. I'm definitely a fan of this move. Our secondary is hurting in a big way and needs some help.

Dewnsav
Dewnsav

@Contractor1  I like the move...need DB help...we still have Turman waiting in the wings...we're fine at RB...it would have to be a catastrophic, but he could switch back if required...but again, it would take catastrophic circumstances to get there...Gurley/Douglas/Turman/Michel/Chubb...go dogs

Nate-the-Great
Nate-the-Great

@Contractor1  As a Georgia fan, I think it's a great move.  We have plenty of guys that can tote the rock, but almost nobody in the secondary based on last year's performance.  Freshman RBs can step in and play at a high level in this league, Gurley and Marshall are two examples.  He can always switch back to RB in case of another extreme rash of injuries but to solidify arguably the weakest part of the team last year would be awesome.


Although if they lose 3-4 games and get waxed in Columbia again, I take everything back.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Somebody must have made ole 350 mad! Hearing Jon Ledbetter will flip this weekend to UGA. The Dawgs will have to fight FAU on NSD. The kid just got all caught up in the Elisa Shaw scholly thing at Bama. His heart was in the right place anyway...at the time.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  What are you trying to imply? That I spelled his name wrong? Better look it up. And if you're trying to imply that he can't spell his own name, well I highly doubt that.