Maybe even at the top, based on the coach's recent comments after practices and scrimmages. Now that Green has shown what he's again able to do following a length re-hab process, Mullen has high expectations for the third-year sophomore. Or at least he does speaking to media; Green himself hasn't heard that praise yet. "He hasn't told me that!"
Nor does Green need to since he can see by practice plans what Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning are scheming-up for his position. A much deeper and better-rounded position, too, after the struggles of last fall when State was trying to replace the entire graduated 2007 corps. Old hand Brandon Henderson, hobbled a bit lately, should be ready to roll soon as a proven blocker and improving receiver; true soph Kendrick Cook is developing into an outstanding dual-duty man at the end of the line.
And Green? For all the pretense of secrecy it's common knowledge that he fits the inside-outside-everyside mold for a strong guy able to handle initial blocks with also the sheer speed to break downfield and stretch defenses. If not shred them outright. That's why this ‘tight' end will be turned loose to take his stance off the line, in the slot, even set way out wide. Because he can.
And, because he will. "It don't matter," Green says. "Wherever he tells me to line up at." This includes more than regular offensive duty, too, with Green already assigned to at least two special squads. "I play field goal, and kickoff return," he says. "I've got to keep busy!" Perhaps to the point of risking over-work, as Mullen fears for guys like Green and Christian Ducre and others that the staff is tempted to have on the field as often as possible. Green doesn't care. "Where we need me to play, this and that, I've got to do it."
Then again Green would accept duty on defense if asked, just for the pleasure of participating again. It's been a lonnnnng wait since September 6, 2008 when he last appeared on the field of play; before the groin-area injury (exact description is difficult but a physician's demonstration hurts just to watch) that sidelined him over the winter. Even after a January procedure in Pennsylvania there was still concern if Green would return to all-around athlete form.
Consider all concerns settled. "I feel good. I'm 100% back to my old self, like before it happened. I'm just working hard for my teammates every day and giving them relentless effort like Coach says." Of course it's required that much extra effort for Green to catch up with the scheme. He was able to practice in spring to various degrees but nothing like full-steam needed for the real thing. Fortunately Green made the very most of that opportunity and it's showing this August.
"I got the visual part down, now I was working on the physical part. So I've kind of got everything down to get ready for the season," he says. "I'm just trying to get back in the groove of things, I've been out for a year so it's about time to come out and see what I'm about."
Based on the coach's commentaries what Mullen has seen is good stuff indeed. Green will even hint a bit at how he and his cohorts are being utilized; you know, that ‘get involved' thing.
"We're more than involved," he smiles. "We're like the primary receiver, we're blocking, lots of things." Well, at least he mentioned the aspect of most fan-interest first. But obviously Green must be doing the more mundane part well, too, because for all the high-flying image the ‘spread' offense still requires reliable blocking—whether in protection or leading the charge—from his position.
Yet, he's been out so long, and for that matter got into just two games—and that briefly—in the first two years? Has any signs of rust, physical or mental, ever showed during this training camp? "Oh, no hesitating. I've got to go all-out, that's the only way I can feel better. The way I've been going lately I think I'm 100% right now."
Of course there's another less-mentioned but very-serious reason why Green says he's all ready to go. Because in spring he found out the most painful down-side to injured status at Mississippi State. It's called the ‘Pit' and it's where banged-up Bulldogs unable to participate in practice are exiled. Maybe a better name would be Devil's Island with notorious warden Matt Balis and staff awaiting. Just catching sight of that roped-off area is enough to put some spring back in any Dog's step as he reaches the practice field, especially Green's.
"Whooo!" he responds to questions of how he got back so quickly. "It's 100% want to play, and 0% wanting to not be in Coach Balis' area." OK, his proportions might need some clarifying, but the idea comes through. "I can't stand that, it's something that makes you work to get out and get back on the field. Between that, I'd rather be on the field!" Teammates feel the same, as tweaked hamstrings and turned ankles that once would have sent Dogs to the sidelines are now dismissed; Green says some guys won't even allow their hammy to get an extra wrap for fear of catching Balis' eye.
"They ain't going to no Pit!" he says. "I ain't going back there!"
Oddly, though, Green has few regrets about all that down-time. Not that being hurt was fun, of course, but the young man has certainly made the most of the situation…to the point he can even now say in retrospect "It's a blessing, know what I'm saying? Come back off an injury like I did, I've got my teammates behind me. Plus I was talking to God. So I can say it's a blessing. I wouldn't change it for the world, all the things I went through. I guess you can say it made me the man I am now."
A man with a bigger role, right? Oh, well, if he still won't rise to the reporter's bait and offer specifics Green does smile at the suggestion…which might be the best answer of all. Alright then, what is the focus of tight end practice this week in specific and the offense in general?
"I think we're more polishing and practicing, working on our technique, making sure we take the right steps, using our hands." And with that Green grins again, meaning that everyone must wait until September 5 to see what he won't say.