Green, Hicks get shuffled to new positions for UGA

Quayvon Hicks and J.J. Green spent last season in Bryan McClendon’s Georgia running backs room and started together in the Bulldogs’ backfield for two straight weeks in October against Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Yet here they were in a recent spring practice in their new roles: Hicks going out on a route as a tight end and Green in coverage as a cornerback.

“You’ve got to embrace it because at this level, not only getting on the football field but being able to be used in multiple ways I think is a big deal, especially if you want to make this a career,” Hicks said.

Green’s move was made because Georgia looks to be loaded at tailback and needs all the help it can get in the secondary.

Hicks’ move to tight end came as junior Jay Rome, Georgia’s top returning tight end, hasn’t practiced this spring following foot surgery and after Merritt Hall moved ahead of him at fullback last season.

Georgia assistant coach Tony Ball told Hicks coming out of Pierce County High School that coaches wanted to use him in a versatile way depending on how his body grew and where he was needed.

Hicks is focusing on learning the finer points of tight end — he says he watches film of former Bulldog tight end Arthur Lynch and Rome at night — to make him prepared to play a hybrid role in the fall that could include H-back and fullback. He says he’s working now strictly at tight end.

“I’ll say this: For the short time that he’s played tight end, he’s doing some good things,” coach Mark Richt said. “He’s catching the ball well. He’s running routes better than you think a guy would just starting out. Maybe he was watching those tight ends all this time, but he’s really got a pretty decent knack for route running by using his body to shield off defenders. He snatches the ball well and he runs pretty good.”

Hicks made a lot of noise early last season at fullback. He had seven catches for 128 yards and 17 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games. But he didn’t do much the rest of the way when he had just three catches for 6 yards and three carries for 5 yards.

“I fell off and it won’t happen again,” the junior said. “I’m going to do what I’ve got to do to make sure I’m on the field all season this coming fall.”

The 6-foot-2 Hicks says he wants to play “heavy” and is currently in the 260- or 265-pound range.

“He’s got a big enough body to block a Sam linebacker or possibly block down on a bigger man whose inside, if he’s got a little leverage on him,” Richt said. “He’s got the skill set to do both of them pretty well. I’m pretty pleased.”

The 5-foot-8, 187-pound Green comes in a smaller, quicker package that he hopes to use to deliver blows instead of receiving them.

“I just wanted to hit people again,” he said of playing defense. “I got tired of being hit.”

Green rushed for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 68 carries last season as a freshman, getting most of his work when Todd Gurley was sidelined with an ankle injury.

The idea of moving to defense was presented to Green this winter.

“One day the coaches asked me after mat drills, ‘You want to play defense?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’” Green said. “So it was really my choice. If I didn’t want to play, I could have stayed at running back.”

Green played cornerback at Camden County High School, so he doesn’t feel like he’s at ground zero. Richt said after only one practice that Green “looked pretty natural out there” as a cornerback.

“I think I’m good, but I can work on a little bit of stuff here and there,” Green said. “Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt’s really showing us the ins and outs at corner.”

Safety Quincy Mauger said Green already is “bringing a lot of energy. He’s playing physical out there. He’s like a little ball of energy really.”

Follow Marc online at twitter.com/marcweiszer.

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