A year ago, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas were playing high school football — Green at Camden County and Douglas at Aquinas. They were ranked the state’s 57th (Green) and 148th (Douglas) best overall prospects by ESPN.
On Saturday, they shared the high-profile tailback position on Georgia’s injury-decimated offense.
With starter Todd Gurley still sidelined by a sprained ankle suffered Sept. 28 and his running mate Keith Marshall out for the season with a torn knee ligament suffered Oct. 5, Green and Douglas put up impressive numbers in Georgia’s 41-26 loss to Missouri.
The freshmen combined for 157 yards rushing and 85 yards receiving — a total of 242 yards between them.
“We’re not high schoolers anymore,” Green said after the game. “We’ve got to step up and play like we’re (college) juniors and seniors. We’ve got to play this grown-man football.”
The 5-foot-9, 183-pound Green ran for 87 yards on 12 carries, including a 57-yard sprint to the Missouri 10-yard line on the second play of the third quarter, and caught five passes for 42 yards.
“I’m not too excited about it because we didn’t win,” Green said.
The 5-foot-11, 202-pound Douglas ran for 70 yards on 14 carries and caught six passes for 43 yards, including a 7-yard reception for the game’s first touchdown.
Douglas, however, had a key misplay: Late in the first half, with Georgia trailing 28-10 but seemingly on the cusp of a score, he fumbled at the Missouri 7-yard line. The Tigers recovered.
“I think J.J. and I were ready to go,” Douglas said after the game. “Besides my turnover, of course, which was really disappointing, I think we did pretty well.”
The fumble occurred as Douglas was battling for extra yardage after gaining 3 yards on a second-and-2 run.
“I tried to come out in the second half and play as hard as I could, but you really can’t make up for that,” said Douglas, who figured prominently in a Georgia touchdown drive that cut Missouri’s lead to 28-26 early in the fourth quarter. On that nine-play, 58-yard drive, Douglas ran five times for 37 yards and caught a 9-yard pass.
It remains unclear if Gurley will return for Georgia’s next game, at Vanderbilt on Saturday. Coach Mark Richt said Gurley “has a realistic shot,” depending on how the ankle progresses this week. If Gurley isn’t ready, Richt expressed confidence that Green and Douglas can do the job.
“Mike Bobo (Georgia’s offensive coordinator) and I were talking after the game and (saying) they’re good backs, they run the ball well, they caught the ball well,” Richt said. “We’re not paralyzed or handcuffed with those guys in there.”