ATHENS, Ga. -- Rarely does the public see video evidence that confirms a team’s offseason happy talk. Luckily for Georgia freshman running back J.J. Green, he picked the right day during preseason training camp to make a ridiculous run.
ESPN cameras were on the scene last week for an on-campus tour stop when the diminutive Green escaped from multiple tackle attempts and wound up leaping onto and over a pile of four linemen to score during a 3-on-3 running drill. Multiple Bulldogs players and coaches had complimented the freshman during spring practice for his slippery running style, and the video of Green’s run proved they weren’t just blowing smoke.
“I think it more so explains just the type of football player he is, period,” Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. “He’s a tough guy that doesn’t like to be denied at much, a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder because he’s been told that he’s too [small] his whole football career. So he plays with a chip on his shoulder and goes out there and tries to prove people wrong.”
Green said he didn’t even know the cameras were there, much less that video of his run had gone viral on the Internet until well after the fact. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt told him during practice that the play had reached ESPN’s airwaves, and the dozens of mentions Green soon received on Twitter confirmed that his run was making the rounds.
“I was surprised a little bit,” Green said. “… Everybody just started sending me the video and I checked the Twitter account like three hours later and it was blowing up with it. But it was pretty awesome.”
The other side of the token, however, is that three Georgia defensive players had to answer for their inability to corral the 5-foot-9 scatback -- particularly nose guard John Atkins, who had Green in his grasp.
Defensive end Toby Johnson, who was also in on the play, laughed and said what happened was “embarrassing,” but accepted some portion of the blame for Green’s escape.
“It was as much on me, too. I can’t put my guys out like that,” Johnson said. “We was all in it together. We all lost.”
On the play, Green ran into a hole initially clogged by defensive end Ray Drew and then spun directly into Atkins’ arms. Green kept his legs driving and stayed on his feet as Atkins fell to the turf while trying to strip the ball from his hands, and then the running back jumped straight up and landed on top of four down linemen.
“I didn’t really see it [at the time], but when I saw it on the Internet, I was like, ‘Whoa! I didn’t know it was that spectacular,’ ” Atkins chuckled.
Next, Green planted his right knee on the back of falling offensive tackle John Theus, made an acrobatic lunge forward and landed on both feet before running away from the pile to cheers from the Bulldogs’ offensive players and coaches.
“[Atkins] fell off and everything else was just instincts,” Green said. “I didn’t really think about it, it just happened. I knew backside was open, but I wanted to make a play, so I hopped over the pile.”
Having played running back throughout his football career, Green is happy to be playing the position after initially expecting to play receiver in college. He switched to running back just before spring practice because of depth issues, and performed well enough that he seems to have found a home in the backfield.
“I’m a tailback at Georgia now,” Green said. “I can still play wide receiver sometimes, but I like playing running back.”
He has competition for playing time behind established stars Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, however. Fellow freshman Brendan Douglas has impressed the coaching staff with his performance in August, and A.J. Turman could still play a role once he returns from a camp injury.
But Green has clearly carved a niche for himself as a return man and change-of-pace option out of the backfield, and his slippery running style -- as evidenced by his 3-on-3 touchdown -- will make him another weapon that Georgia’s explosive offense can utilize.
“You’ve got to watch him,” observed defensive back Kennar Johnson, “or he’ll shake you real quick.”