"I'd probably say I'm 90%," he said. "By two a days I'll be 100%. It doesn't even matter, I'm just hungry. I want to put on a helmet. Right now. If Coach said ‘Marcus I need you to line up and play punt return I'll play it!"
Not, of course, that Green has any such plans. Still it's a sign of how at 90% physically the tight end is 100% emotionally ready to roll come this sophomore season. Or for that matter, pre-season, where he will pick up working his way back into the offensive lineup as… Say, exactly what should we list him as? Even Green has to think for a moment.
"Just put me…yeah, you can put me as a tight end." The uncertainty over a simple title has to do both with the new State offensive system which doesn't list such a position, as well as the potential Green has to perform varied roles based on his spring practices. Nor does the man himself worry much about labels at this point in his still-young college career.
"I told Coach I'd help wherever," Green says of pre-spring planning. "So he gave me a shot at tight end, saw I could really move and gave me a shot at receiver. Wherever he puts me that's where I'll play."
Indeed Green spent more time this past spring working with the true receivers than his previous comrades at tight end. Again there were multiple reasons, the main one naturally being his ongoing recovery from fall injury and winter surgery. The February procedure to correct an unusual condition with his pelvic cartilage, which had contributed to a groin tear, meant Green had to avoid spring contact. So serious blocking work was out in that camp.
Fortunately he was able to run, mostly, receiver routes and was assigned there. Thus Green spent more time in the receiver's squad room with Coach Mark Hudspeth than he did with tight ends Coach Scott Sallach. The same was true on the field. "I didn't play tight end much, most of the time I was running routes. Coach Hud emphasized routes and stuff like that, and to do the little things that count." Which does not mean Green will be exclusive property of just one position coach come August, though, so he's been given a checklist of other items to work on in June and July.
"The main thing Coach Sallach wants us to do is do the little things right and give it relentless effort. He coaches on certain points we need to be coached on. And he's a very fun guy. He's going to coach you." Come camp that is; for now Green and teammates are essentially coaching themselves when everyone assembles for the unsupervised but still intense afternoons. Here Green focuses full-time on receiving technique.
Along with, he says, "Footwork. Catching and footwork. Most of the time footwork and making sure I do the little things right. That's a big part of the game there so that's what I mostly work on. Footwork." And the way Bulldog quarterbacks are, so to speak, spreading the football around these days there's little room for a false step. Green has welcomed the change in offensive approach which will only increase opportunities to make plays using all the available operatives.
Including a trio of quarterbacks who are working on the other half of the throw-and-catch equation. So far Green has only caught passes from the two veterans, Tyson Lee and Chris Relf, which is more than enough to offer encouragement about State's offensive potential in 2009.
"To me, I think Tyson's arm has really improved. I mean he's got good technique, footwork, and his pass is just unbelievable. We can talk about Chris, he can launch a bullet!" And what of the new kid on campus? Green reports he's seen Tyler Russell tossing, and "he can launch it. We haven't worked one-on-one but I've looked at his arm it he looked pretty good. He's going to be alright, he's going to be the one that sees me way downfield and launches it!"
It might seem bold to talk of getting open deep after what he's been through. But then Green was already a bit hampered by the injury that would ultimately sideline him last September and was still able to beat Southeastern Louisiana coverage for a 50-yard reception, over a defender at that. Had he been 100% it would have produced his first college touchdown; instead it was the only highlight of a short season…though Green is still ribbed by teammates about his record yards-per-catch average.
Yes, he also knows future receptions will only reduce that rate. No problem, he grins again. "I'm going to try to get some more catches, that's the plan!"
Nobody could have planned for what halted his rookie year though. Green redshirted in 2007 while going from his prep superstar identity as running back to what looked like his best college role at tight end. So he was more than ready to roll last September, until something literally snapped inside. Fans and media got confused by coach comments about ‘groin tear' or ‘pelvic strain' but the fact was he had both and neither were the primary problem.
"It's not no ordinary injury, it's one-in-a-million I could say. That's why I say everything happens for a reason. It's a little cartilage that holds the pelvis together and when that snapped it kind of tore my groin too." A physician said the muscles involved were the counterpart of those women use in childbirth, as well as bone rubbing on bone under stress. "He told me and I said that was it, I don't want to hear no more!" Green says.
Green credits the MSU medical and training staff for going above-and-beyond in treatment. "I think we've got one of the best staffs, they did everything they could and checked on me." Still when all efforts could not fix things the Mississippi kid was sent to a Pennsylvania specialist in February for a special procedure. "He told me his operation was going to work and as long as I did what he told me and the trainers told me I'd be back running." Sure enough, "After the surgery it took me I'd say maybe a week to start walking. The trainers were on me, hard! I'd say three weeks after that I was jogging and after a month I was back to running. It's amazing how fast I came back from a severe injury like that."
A comeback only accelerated by Coach Matt Balis' own workout program, pre- and post-spring, which Green flatly calls "hell." But he's divinely happy with the results because now Green has his chance to get back into action and work his way up the depth chart wherever assigned. Tight end, he assumes.
"Right now I'm kind of behind two tight ends that have been here and worked hard last year and gave it their all. So I look forward to helping them out and being a weapon for the team."
Green says he is now at 240 pounds, or ten over his listed 2008 weight, though the way he is put together this tight end could pass for a guard. Fortunately he's a bit quicker than that, though not yet back to his rookie rate of running. "Coming off the injury I was clocked at a 4.7. But that was before we got out. I came back here during May so I was really working hard. I just really don't know what it is right now but we'll see the first game!"
As well as where Green gets the most action, whether lining up beside a tackle—he's impressed with the progress of Addison Lawrence by the way, and really enjoys working along with veteran Derek Sherrod—to aid in run blocking, or flanked into the slot or some other spot where he down-the-middle speed can add a dimension to the gameplan.
"So I look forward to doing what I've got to do; blocking and catching. We're really balanced, you really don't know what I am!"
But we do know one thing. Marcus Green is looking good these days, just like his view of the 2009 season. "It's coming along pretty good. I've still got a couple of things I need to work on, you can't stress working hard enough, but I think I'm going to be ready."