Having patience has its benefits. At least it has for Chattanooga running back Marquis Green. Ever since he burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2011, running for a team-leading 530 yards and three scores, Green’s had to utilize that often talked about virtue.
The junior scat back, short on size but certainly not on speed, touched the ball 139 times during his Southern Conference All-Freshman campaign — 120 carries, 17 receptions and two kickoff returns. Since that season, though, the 5-foot-7, 175-pounder has had the ball in his hands just 78 times.
The backfield as a whole struggled in 2012 — Kendrix Huitt led the way with 288 yards, but the position produced just 754 yards on the year. Green actually spent the second-half of the season at slot receiver, hauling in 15 receptions for 142 yards.
He’d been moved back to the backfield by first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Durden by the the start of spring practice, though, and that’s where he’s been ever since.
“We wanted to get the backs more involved this season,” Green said. “That's what we've done."
Gone are Green's games of double-digit carries. That role now belongs to teammate Keon Williams, also a junior, who has been nothing short of spectacular this season. The two-time SoCon offensive player of the week is third in the conference with 468 yards on the ground, he’s scored seven total touchdowns and he’s sporting a league-leading 6.8 yards-per-carry average.
Green knows this. He’s good with it, too.
“That’s the thing, Keon is running the ball very well,” Green said. “If I was the coach I wouldn’t take him out. Right? He’s got the hot hand so let him run it.”
Every once in a while, though, Green gets his opportunity.
And he’s making much better use of those opportunities this season, like in last week’s 42-21 win over Western Carolina. He hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions against the Catamounts, including the team’s longest play from scrimmage this year — a 67-yard screen pass from quarterback Jacob Huesman
Green’s second score, a 13-yard catch and run, probably should have been ruled a fumble, but he’ll take the six points.
“I thought I scored,” he said. “Hey, I’m not the referee. I don’t make the calls, I just play.”
Head coach Russ Huesman wasn’t quite as casual about it.
“Yeah he ripped me for that; I probably won’t do that again,” Green said.
Added Huesman, “I don’t know who saw it, but I question whether or not that’s a touchdown ... I go nuts on the headset, and Jeff Durden’s saying ‘man you make it sound like we’re losing the game.’ Well we’re going to lose a game by doing those things, that’s my point (just ask the Vols).
“We coach not to do it, but they’re still going to do it. That’s going to get corrected, and it’s going to get corrected with Jacob [Huesman], Marquis, Keon; all of those guys.”
Correct call or not, Williams was all smiles seeing his teammate take it to the house.
“I was really happy for Marquis,” he said. “He’s been a little quiet; he’s had sparks here and there, but today was a breakout game for him. I’m happy for him.”
Through five games, Green has already exceeded his 2012 production. The Palmetto, Fla., native’s five touchdowns are the second-most on the team, while his 55.2 all-purpose yards per game is good enough for fourth — he averaged just 29.2 yards per contest a season ago.
“Coach knows my ability, and he’s having [Williams and I] in the game at the same time," Green said. “Both of us can make plays. We have a lot of guys who can make plays, and coach is going to put us in the right spots to be productive as an offense.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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