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October 5, 2011
The big experiment on defense this fall has been starting former safety D.J. Green, a sophomore, at strongside linebacker. The early results are positive, especially in the last two games. Green had six tackles, including two for a loss, at Cincinnati, and added four tackles, one for a loss, versus Georgia Tech.
"We thought after the first couple of games he was okay, looked like he kind of leveled out, but he's stepped up the last couple of games," head coach Tom O'Brien said. "One thing Coach [Jon] Tenuta says is he listens. He tries to do what you coach him to do. That's probably a statement you think everybody does, but that doesn't always happen. He's gotten better the last two weeks."
Green was an oversized safety at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, but he admits he is an undersized linebacker. He says his weight has been fluctuating this fall.
"It's tough right now during the season," Green admitted. "It goes up and down, up and down. I do a lot of running so I don't feel like eating all of the time. It gets hard.
"It's a heart thing more than anything. I feel like I got a little heart. It doesn't matter about my weight."
Green is also learning the finer points of playing linebacker.
"Learn to play with my hands more, stop beating up my shoulders," Green noted. "From the beginning to now I feel like it's two different levels. In the beginning, of course I had to learn it until I'm comfortable. I'm trying to play faster, as coach Tenuta would say."
He's been helped by the tutelage of a pair of veteran linebackers, fifth year senior [db]Audie Cole and redshirt junior Terrell Manning. When healthy, Cole and Manning start with Green in the linebacker corps. Manning has missed the last two games with a knee injury however.
Sidelined or not, Green still relies on the duo for guidance.
"They've been through what I'm going through now," Green said. "It's just like your dad telling you one of the things that can happen to you in life. They are doing the same things except about what's happening on the football field."
This Saturday will present a different challenge for Green than Cincinnati's spread offense or Georgia Tech's triple option. Central Michigan brings a physical brand of football that is more downhill running.
It's the next test for Green, who keeps aiming to make plays.
"I know that I'm still young," Green said. "I got a long ways to go. All I look for is production, and my coaches and fellow linebackers, they help me out with that. We just want to keep getting better; better and better."
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