Veteran Linebacker Welcomes Grantham’s Clean-Sheet Approach

After 26 varsity games, lots of snaps, 92 career tackles, etc. and so on, he could feel irritated being treated like anyone else. Uh-uh. Gerri Green welcomes the utter equality of this spring.

“Because we’re on the same plane. Everybody goes with the same mindset, like they’re trying to earn a spot and do their best so they can get seen.”

It seems safe to expect Green is being seen by the new-management Bulldog defensive staff. At 6-4 and a buffed-up 245 pounds he is hard to miss already. Now, as a rising junior and seasoned veteran, Green intends to stand out.

Has to, even.

“No one gets comfortable, nobody’s complacent,” Green said. “Everybody is going out there ‘I have to earn me a spot’.”

The earning is underway. Mississippi State opened spring on-field work with a pair of practices, and have a couple more scheduled this week ahead of school break. Wearing gear and running around is a pleasant change from pre-dawn weight lifting and afternoon unit sessions, Green agreed.

“It was good. It was exciting. We’re just happy to get out on the field after the long off-season.”

The excitement though, and an increased competitive attitude to 2017, springs from the new defensive coordinator on campus.

The arrival of Todd Grantham has rejuvenated returning and redshirted Bulldogs to raise their own games. This is all the more true for Green and Bulldog linebackers whom Grantham will directly coach.

So far? So very good, to Green.

“He knows what he’s talking about. He’s experienced. I feel like he’s a very experienced coach, everything he says off the field to on the field you can see it translate. So everything he says I believe it because I see it work.”

Seen it work, too, with glimpses of Grantham’s defenses at Louisville and Georgia as well as a decade in the National Football League. Yeah. That gets a guy’s attention, quick. Even better was having Grantham explain his ideas about aggressive attitudes and tactics.

“Because what defensive player, linebacker doesn’t want to make plays in the backfield? That excites everybody on the defense.”

Green has plenty spring incentive. Practicing at outside linebacker he is in a crowd with returning starters Leo Lewis and J.T. Gray, fellow alternate Dezmond Harris, soph Tim Washington, and more. Then there is how does Grantham’s general scheme differ, or not, from the 2016 lineup with a ‘viper’ who was either a small defensive end or a big ‘backer like Traver Jung?

This is where the open-to-all approach is welcomed. So for that matter is figuring is Green a strong-side, weak-side, whatever? “It doesn’t matter, just outside linebacker. Similar to the viper role we had last year.”

Using ‘similar’ and ‘last year’ in a sentence isn’t a comfortable combination for State fans. The 2016 defense will be remembered long for the wrong reasons, which is why Green is about to practice for his fourth position coach and coordinator in as many springs. The frustrations won’t be forgotten.

But memory can also motivate.

“Last year was something we’re not proud of,” Green said. “So we’re trying to get better. We feel we’re way better. We have to go out there and prove it.”

Now, for fans eager to hear Grantham has brought a radical and sport-shifting scheme to Starkville… Not really, per Green.

“It has similarities,” he said, adding “Defense is defense.”

Yet defense must improve vastly, and fastly, for 2017 to turn this side of the scoreboard around. Green is upbeat how veteran Dogs have meshed with their newest coordinator. And equally with how Grantham is giving everyone a clean sheet, fresh start, whatever one wants to call it.

“So you just have to attack what we have in front of us,” Green said.

“Everybody has their mind set, nobody is moping about the past. Everybody is looking to the future because we have games to win next season.”

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