Green Getting A Grip On Tight End Role

Initial response to the comment will be obvious. And, incorrect. See, when asked why he's made the tight end transition so easily, Marcus Green mentions his mitts. "I'm good with my hands," he says. The twist here is, the redshirt rookie doesn't have catching passes on his mind. "Yeah, I'm thinking blocking first. You've got to block before you can catch."

Which is a very good explanation of why Mississippi State coaches are convinced they have found a gifted young talent for the tight end position. With all the obvious physical aptitudes, it signifies much more that Green already has the right attitude for this demanding duty. First things first, he says about his new job.

"I mean, I'm good catching. But the main thing right now is just blocking."

It's a role and a responsibility that Green has accepted without hesitation. Recruited as a running back out of Kemper County High, and immediately acknowledged as one of the best all-around athletes inked by Coach Sylvester Croom in 2007, the Scooba native now is preparing to play—a lot—at one end of the line of scrimmage. He admits there is much still to learn and perfect but points to progress already made since the move.

"It's going good right now. I think it's my natural position. I think it fits me best. I mean, they couldn't have moved me anywhere that's better. I liked playing running back, but I think I've got a good vision of playing tight end."

Along with wide-open 2008 opportunity. All three of State's regular tight ends last season have graduated, leaving third-year soph Brandon Henderson the lone man with any game experience at the position. Since the Bulldog system relies so heavily on having a variety of tight ends, mix-and-matched to all sorts of situations, Green and true freshman Nelson Hurst can see plenty of snaps for the taking.

If, that is, they earn the privilege of playing. Green is doing all he can this summer to prepare for August competition and making his best case. "The main thing was getting the basics down first," he says. "Now I'm working on routes, catching, where I'm supposed to be. The small details that Coach talks about all the time to make sure we learn."

Green certainly is starting to look the part of a college tight end. No, at 6-2 tall he's not likely to ever become the prototypical ‘extra tackle' that Bulldog fans have come to expect of the position. But he's put on the kind of blocking bulk necessary for a move from backfield to on-the-line.

"I've gained ten pounds since I first got here, I'm like 235 now." Interestingly, a freshman year in college strength work has placed those pounds around the upper-body so well that Green could have called it 245 and been believed. He looks that much bigger but doesn't necessarily plan on getting any heavier, at least not this fall.

"Right now Coach says I'm doing pretty good at the weight I am. Plus I have to be able to move and block so I don't want too be too big and too slow. And, I don't want to be too light and get blocked or whatever."

A minor knee problem in spring camp was a temporary setback that Green says he's since made up for, mostly, as far as the strength aspect. And have no fears that he's lost any velocity either from the May clean-up surgery or adding those lbs. "I've still got the speed!" he smiles. In fact, he hopes to be a bit quicker afoot and faster afield after a full year in Coach Ben Pollard's program.

It was also a year spent waiting his turn, first at halfback and now at tight end. Green came to college with a considerable prep rep after running for 1,618 yards and 25 touchdowns at KCHS, and throwing for five more scores at quarterback. He was a coaches association first-team All-State and top-five state prospect; though what college coaches noticed more than the honors were his 34-inch vertical leap and 9-9 standing broad jump.

Like any touted freshman Green came to State thinking about instant action…and like most of his classmates he ended up sitting the season along with even-more touted backfield peer Robert Elliot. That State was able to redshirt each of these gifted newcomers said much about how Croom's overall roster has improved. And both these pups now agree it was the best way for them to go.

"I tell everybody ain't nothing wrong with a redshirt," Green now says. "I look at Wes (Carroll), he's a great athlete but had a lot of pressure on his back." The quarterback being a necessary exception to the freshman redshirt rule. Green isn't a bit jealous, especially since his own redshirt route has moved him to a role that allows Green greater chances to lend Carroll a hand whether blocking or catching. Besides, Green has a better idea than most tight ends what his quarterback must cope with. This makes for no small irony either, that the former ball-carrier and –thrower is now a blocker and receiver. And he still has much to learn about both. "I played quarterback in high school so I didn't do too much blocking," he admits. "I got to see a lot of it!"

Yet when the coaching staff made the move early last season, they didn't make things simple for the newest tight end. Green went right from taking fourth or fifth turn carrying balls in drills to scrimmaging against two of the best pass-rushers in the SEC. And no, neither Titus Brown or Avery Hannibal showed their young teammate a minute of mercy. Which Green can laugh about, now.

"Well, you can't get any better than blocking Titus! I went up against him every day last year and he didn't do nothing but make it rough! I give a lot of thanks to him, too." Because Green was able to somehow survive his Intro to Tight End 1001 in fall and by spring was looking much more comfortable taking on defensive ends. Besides, "I've got a few tricks up my sleeve now!" he says.

"Plus, I had coaches and teammates pushing me. Coach knows what is best so I'm going with the flow here. I'm not a selfish person. So whatever it took, if it was just playing special teams, I would have done that. You know, after a year of just playing it every day you get better and better. So it just started to coming and coming because I kept working hard at it."

The work only gets harder next month given how quickly these tight ends have to be able to function within the offensive system. Maybe nobody is demanding these younger Dogs do everything Dezmond Sherrod, Eric Butler, and Jason Husband could do as '07 seniors. Or at least not in September. By the same token, Green understands there will still be pressure to perform because State must have quality execution at tight end(s) to get the bigger job done.

"We've got a pretty good group now," Green says. "Brandon has been here a few years so he knows the system. And we're teaching Nelson, the new kid, which he's going to learn. We're going to try our best. We know we lost some good players that had been here four or five years and really knew the system. I just sat back while they were practicing and watched them, learning from them. They taught me. And I still have some questions that I ask Dez or Eric, about certain situations. You have to learn from the best!"

Yet given the rate of progress Green has already shown in this tight end transition, in time he hopes to become one of the best himself.

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