D.J. Green, by his own admission, is a "go with the flow" type of guy.
As a freshman in 2010, he accepted his role as a backup safety while simultaneously becoming one of NC State's most reliable special teams players. It wasn't a flashy job, but by season's end Green had tallied 237 special teams snaps -- good for second on the team -- and even scored a touchdown.
So when head coach Tom O'Brien approached him in the spring and asked him to make the switch from safety to strong side linebacker, Green showed little hesitation. It's just not his personality.
And while the transition hasn't been seamless -- Green is the first to admit he's made plenty of mistakes -- the sophomore from Macon, Ga. said he's ready to make an impact for the 2011 NC State defense.
"I don't put a limit on what I have to do to get better," he said. "There is always room for improvement every day. We lost a few guys off last year's defense but we still have guys stepping up when their name is called."
When his name was called in March, Green said he did everything he could to soak up as much as possible during the limited time he had with his new position coach Jon Tenuta. In the Kay Yow Spring Game April 16, after just a month in his newest role, Green made his debut as NC State's strong side linebacker, tallying four tackles and two pass breakups in the low-scoring 13-3 Red victory.
While his athleticism was clear in the spring game, Green said the month of practice came and went in a flash. He had been introduced to something completely different.
"In the spring I was kind of clueless," Green said. "I took a couple of snaps in high school at linebacker but this is a whole different level. Of course I made a lot of mistakes in the spring just learning the position but I learned a lot."
The real learning, however, began just after spring practice ended. Green found a comfortable spot in the film room and became close with the one person who knew just what he needed to do -- Audie Cole.
Cole, who was making a switch of his own from strong side linebacker to the middle, became Green's mentor. Green said Cole made things "much easier"
"I got in the film room with Audie, he helped me out a lot," Green said of the senior from Monroe, Mich. "He helped me understand the little things which helps the bigger things take care of themselves. That is where it started."
It continued throughout the summer, as Green learned more about formations, taking on blockers and dealing with the much more hostile situations at the line of scrimmage.
"At safety you are deep but when you are at linebacker things happen a lot faster," he said. "You have to learn to play even faster."
The transition process happened in the weight room too, as Green put on much needed weight. After all, the move from safety to linebacker isn't all mental. By the beginning of fall camp Green said he felt the difference of his offseason weight gain.
"It takes some getting used to because you go from hitting slot receivers to hitting these big oak trees coming at you," Green said. "I put on about 10 pounds since then and I can feel it too. It makes a huge difference."
For O'Brien, who spoke in the spring about Green's athletic ability and size being key factors in him making the switch to linebacker, the improvement in D.J.'s game since the spring has been clear.
"He has made a good step forward," O'Brien said Tuesday. "That happens a lot when those guys get the opportunity in the spring and then they go back and spend time on their own studying tape. He can go back and look at what Audie [Cole] did in the previous spring. 'Am I doing it how Audie did it? Am I doing it the right way?'"
With Cole serving as his mentor, Green said he has every intention of doing it 'the right way' in 2011. If that happens, the experienced NC State defense -- which returned eight starters -- could be even better than it was in 2010.
If the 'go with the flow' former safety has his say so, the defense -- and the strong side linebacker position -- will be just fine.
"I plan on it," he said. "I can't settle for less."