Vanderbilt’s receiving core is not short on talent and since the addition of converted tight end Justin Green to the unit, it is no longer short in stature.
After beginning his career as a backup tight end, the 6’6” Green made the switch to wide receiver the first week of the fall practice after injuries depleted the position’s depth. His addition to the position immediately added another dimension to a receiving core that had just one player taller than 6’0” in the two-deep.
The switch in positions may have come as a surprise to Commodore fans, but it didn’t to Green.
“In the summer before preseason, the coaches said they wanted to take a look at me at wide receiver,” said Green, who entered the season having caught four passes for 38 yards over his career. “I worked at it this summer to prepare and then I started out the first practice at tight end before making the move.”
Moving to wide receiver wasn’t foreign to the redshirt junior, who was a wide receiver in high school before being recruited as a tight end by Vanderbilt. That experience at the position has helped him move up the depth chart.
“The transition has been going pretty well because I played receiver in high school so it hasn’t been that big of a switch for me,” Green said.” The biggest challenge has been learning new routes, but I feel like I’m up to speed on all the plays and it has been coming to me pretty well.”
Green’s experience at the position has been instrumental during his transition, but he still knows he has a lot to work on at the position, most notably rout running.
“I’m tall, so I’ve got to work on getting low and moving my feet and getting out of my routes,” Green said. “Tight ends mostly just run intermediate routes, while receivers run more of a variety of routs, so I have to work on getting my body down and getting out of my routes better.”
Green’s development at wide receiver can also be attributed to his close relationship with starting quarterback Larry Smith. The two are roommates on campus and both hail from Alabama.
“I ask him questions from time to time about what I need to do better with my routes and that has really been helpful.” Green said. “It is a big help to be able to ask him questions any time I want.”
By adding Green to the receiving core, Vanderbilt not only got an experienced player at the position, but it also added a new threat to its passing game. Including Green, the average height of Vanderbilt’s six receivers listed on the two-deep is just below 6’1”. Remove Green from the list and the average height tumbles to 5’11”.
Besides his height, the one advantage Green has noticed at the position is his blocking ability over cornerbacks, which he honed as a tight end.
“I’m used to blocking 260- to 270-pound guys in the tackle box,” Green said. “Just being more physical than the corners is a whole lot easier. That is the biggest advantage I have over most other receivers.”
Although there has been just one game played, Green’s addition has already impacted Vanderbilt’s offense. The Commodores’ first points of the season came courtesy of Green, who hauled in a 46-yard touchdown strike from Smith. He even added a flair for the dramatic by bobbling the ball three or four times before securing it. It was the first touchdown of Green’s career, but it likely won’t be the prettiest.
“I probably bobbled the ball a little bit because I was nervous,” Green said. “I knew the play was going to me as soon as I saw the coverage the corner was in. I can’t even describe what it was like when I got in the end zone. I didn’t even know what to do.”