MU’s Green not playing like a freshman anymore
TAMPA, Fla. - Last week, Marshall University quarterback Isaiah Green received one of Conference USA’s specialty honors when he was named as the Co-Freshman of the Year along with Florida Atlantic University’s Chris Robison.
Make no mistake, however. There is no one on Marshall’s coaching staff who, at this point, considers Green a freshman as he prepares to lead Marshall (8-4) into the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl against South Florida (7-5) in an 8 p.m. Thursday matchup at Raymond James Stadium.
“The great thing about Isaiah is that he can retain information and he’s progressing at the rate he should be progressing at,” Marshall offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey said.
As Cramsey said, Green’s progress isn’t always evident to the average eye and it can’t always be measured in yardage and touchdowns.
The Thundering Herd’s first-year offensive coordinator pointed out a sequence at Virginia Tech as the perfect example of how far Green has come.
“You can see him going through reads,” Cramsey said. “It was the. ... Virginia Tech -- and you guys probably didn’t see it -- but he got to his fifth read. That doesn’t happen in football, but he was able to go one, two, three four -- all the way across the field and got to his fifth read and completed a pass to Tyre (Brady) on the left hash. To me, that’s just taking steps and making his reads. ”
When Green sat down to speak with media members about the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, the redshirt freshman looked reporters in the eye, stayed on topic, didn’t ramble and engaged them while talking slowly and clearly.
While it might seem small, it showed Green is getting used to that type of pressure as well, which comes with the position of quarterback.
One particular topic brought up involved the steady increase in utilization of the tight ends.
Over the second half of the season, tight end Armani Levias became a threat for Green in the passing game to complement wide receivers Brady and Obi Obialo. Then, against Virginia Tech, tight end Xavier Gaines emerged with a touchdown reception that served as a big confidence boost.
When asked what the difference was in the second half of the season Green was quick to say the early lack of production was on his shoulders and as he’s gotten more comfortable the diversity in the passing game has improved.
“I would say just me being young to start off -- you know, not really going all the way through progressions,” he said. “It was more like I was looking at the first two guys and getting out of there. Over time, I get more comfortable to sit in there and step up this way or that way and make a pass.”
Normally, those first two targets were Brady and Obialo, who were logging the majority of the catches in the first half of the year.
Cramsey joked that if he was in Green’s shoes at that point, he’d have reacted the same way.
“As a true young, young quarterback when you first get him out, I, too, would’ve thrown the ball to Tyre or thrown the ball to Obi,” Cramsey said.
One thing that has been a constant in Green’s game from the beginning was his strength in placing the ball once he finds one-on-one situations for his receivers.
South Florida’s defensive scheme involves many different looks and dependence on the secondary to make plays, which means those opportunities will surface in Tampa.
“They play a lot of man -- almost 50 percent of the time,” Green said of the South Florida scouting report.
Green’s ability in one-on-one scenarios, plus the improvement in his progression could lend itself to a big day, which would cap a 2018 season when he was named the conference USA Co-Freshman of the Year after throwing for 2,238 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in nine games.
While the name on the back of his jersey might spell it out, there has been nothing ‘green’ about his play in the last few weeks of the season.
There have been bumps in the road such as turnovers on the first two drives against Virginia Tech that still show room for improvement, but in all, the 6-foot-2, 202-pound QB from Fairburn, Georgia., is playing like a veteran and has command of his offense.
“He’s progressing nicely -- not that he’s there, yet, but you know, neither are Tom Brady and Drew Brees,” Cramsey said.