April 6, 2012

Now a veteran, Green attacking game's mental side

P.J. Smith could see it when Andrew Green took the field at the beginning of last season. When he struggled against mediocre opponents early in the season. When he gave up three touchdowns against Washington.

Green was not at all comfortable.

"That was his first time, so he wasn't confident. If you ask him, he'll tell you," Smith said. "He was going out there scared."

But at some point in the middle of the season, that fear started to melt away. After losing starts to Corey Cooper and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, both players who made position changes midseason, Green's demeanor changed and he improved as much as any Husker in the second half of the season.

The junior worked to carry that poise into the offseason. He believes he's physically ready to be an impact player. He just has to make sure his head is right.

"I feel like I'm much more confident," Green said. "I'm trying to carry on from last year and add a better part of me mentally and get the game to slow down that much more."

Talk to Green for a few minutes and it's not hard to determine what part of his game he's trying hardest to perfect. Within the first few minutes of an interview Monday, Green used the words "mental" or "mentally" double-digit times.

"I feel like I'm progressing a lot more mentally, more than last year," Green said. "Last year, I felt like I was just playing. As it went on, I started picking up the mental part of the game. This spring, I feel like the whole secondary is picking it up mentally. You can tell during practice."

He owes some of that to his elders last season, including Smith. Green's fellow secondary members saw a young player struggling and did their best to pick him up. Over time, Green began to believe the words his teammates preached to him.

By the end of the season, Green had firmly entrenched himself in the cornerback slot opposite senior Alfonzo Dennard. He intercepted his first career pass in the regular season finale against Iowa.

"You have to do that," Smith said. "Some guys did that to me (when I was younger). At times, you have a play that'll mess you up and kill you for the rest of the game. You can tell. You just say, 'Hey man, let it go. It's over with. You know what you're doing. You're alright.'"

Green entered spring practice as a different player from last year. A year ago, he was a neophyte, having played a reserve role in only one game.

This year, he's a veteran who has been battle-tested but persevered. That hasn't changed the way he's approached the spring session. He's trying to treat it the same, still working to get better and prove that one of those starting cornerback spots should be his.

"Getting playing time and getting experience builds confidence game-by-game," he said. "But it doesn't change my mindset at all. I'm nowhere where I want to be. I know I have a lot to improve. I'm not satisfied."

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