ATHENS -- Right now, J.J. Green is both the teacher and the student.
After a promising freshman year at running back for Georgia, Green opted to return to his roots as a defensive back. He fits well into defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s new scheme. Green chooses daily whether he’ll practice with the safeties or the cornerbacks, but most of his in-game reps come at the “Star” position -- a fifth defensive back role that also serves a linebacker purpose, of sorts.
Obviously, Green is new to the role, but he’s doing what he can to earn the starting role at that spot. He took the first-team reps in the team’s first scrimmage and seems to be the most likely player to get the nod against Clemson.
But he knows nothing is certain.
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“There’s a bunch of pressure because I’m coming from offense, and I want to play,” Green said. “I don’t want to be sitting on the sideline.”
Pruitt has been clear that there’s only one person in his secondary, Damian Swann, who has proven that he deserves to play the opening week. Pruitt said that about a week ago, so things could’ve changed by now, but based on Pruitt’s general approach in practice, it’s likely he still isn’t satisfied.
As a new face on the defense, Green has been forced to completely re-learn what he knows as a defensive player. He’s playing in a scheme he has never played in before and is doing so at a new position. And while there are times that he admits he freezes when faced with certain formations or routes, he acknowledges that he isn’t afforded the learning transition that most newcomers have.
“I’ve been doing this since high school,” Green said. “You’ve got to learn what to do, and you can just teach other guys along the way and get them ready for when you leave.”
Another new defensive player who has seen many of the “Star” snaps is freshman Malkom Parrish. Parrish, a safety in high school, has transitioned well to the new position, something he never attempted in high school despite telling coaches he wanted to play near the line more to battle the run.
He has gotten that chance in the “Star” role and is thankful he has had Green to lean on when he’s confused.
“When I have questions, I go to him. He lets me know anything I need to know. He will tell me,” Parrish said. “He’s a type of guy that he’s not just going to tell me; he’s going to show me. He’s a type of leader that will do whatever. To be honest, I’m thankful that I have him as a mentor.”
Green and Parrish aren’t the only two players who’ve taken snaps at the “Star” spot. Swann and safety Quincy Mauger have both been mentioned as players who have gotten chances, as well, but for now, Green seems to have a hold on that position.
“Pruitt don’t even know who it’s going to be,” Green said. “No guy has shown him who’s going to step up.”
As proof, Pruitt needs to be able to trust his secondary. He’s trying to find who knows the calls, who recognizes the formations and who knows what to do with both once a scenario arises. In practice, Pruitt, always vocal, has been particularly loud when talking to Green.
Green doesn’t take it personally because he knows the pressure and challenges will only get tougher as the season progresses.
“We’re the ones that if you can take him in practice, you can take him anywhere,” Green said. “You can take the criticism of 90,000 fans. It’s a great thing that he’s caring like he does.”