The hits keep on coming as J.J. Green becomes the ninth defensive back to leave Georgia in the past year and the eleventh player from the class of 2013 to be out the door. Green's departure appears to have been, like fellow DB Brendan Langley's, amicable. As Coach Richt explained, Green decided that he wanted to play on offense (where he spent the 2013 season) rather than at defensive back (where he spent most of 2014).
The problem of course is that while Green was fairly effective as a tailback the diminutive Camden County standout just isn't in the mold of bigger, bruising backs like Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Brendan Douglas, and even Keith Marshall. He was really a square peg in a round hole in the Georgia backfield, albeit one who worked well when he had the chance based on pure speed and determination. The problem is that with only 85 scholarships you can't have guys playing where they work okay. Those full rides need to be deployed to optimum effect, and the optimum location for J.J. Green was on defense.
That's why, as much as I love J.J. Green as a football player I'm not particularly upset to see him go, as long as he doesn't go somewhere where he'll play against the Red and Black. Because I watched Mark Richt and his staff try to play Brandon Miller, a five star talent at defensive end, at linebacker solely because he said that's where he wanted to be and he'd leave if they didn't let him. The coaches need to be the ones deciding whose talents are best used where. That evaluation process is part of the job description for coaching big time football.
As it stands, Richt gets another scholarship for 2015, and he prevents Green from becoming either a malcontent on defense or a marginal contributor on offense. That's good for everyone involved. It's also worth noting that paired with Langley's transfer this is evidence of Mark Richt doing something fans long criticized him for avoiding: making tough personnel decisions. There was a time when Mark Richt appeared loath to run off players who just weren't contributing.
In the past couple of years however it has become obvious that he's willing to have an honest conversation with guys who just aren't likely to see the field about what their other options are. Langley was a sophomore who had fallen to the scout team behind several freshmen, including Dominick Sanders and Malkom Parrish. A junior, scholarship player toiling away on the scout team is not a shrewd investment of scholarship dollars. And frankly he may be a young man who'd be happier at a Southern Conference or Sun Belt school where he could see the field from day one while still getting a great education.
There's nothing wrong with having a conversation with that player right now, while there's plenty of time to find a place to land for 2015, about transferring. It beats the heck out of Les Miles having a player get to Baton Rouge and finding out that he doesn't have a room. It beats Nick Saban sandwiching grayshirted players into Tuscaloosa like he had a coupon. If you're going to field a competitive SEC football team, Mark Richt's way of doing it as demonstrated over the last couple of days is one I can get squarely behind.
I wish J.J. Green the best of luck wherever he ends up. I'd love to see what he could do at a Georgia Southern or Mercer. But I'm pleased that Mark Richt is starting now on pruning the hedges into the shape he wants for next season. If we're going to ask him to deliver a five star dinner, we have to let him do the grocery shopping, and this is part of it. Until later...