ORLANDO — Even in practice, Christian Green must wait.
The Florida State wide receiver watched Bert Reed, Kenny Shaw and others snag touchdowns during drills this week. When Green finally had his chance, the ball was underthrown, stretching out the seconds before he could cross the goal line.
The former Tampa Catholic star is still waiting on his first college touchdown, but the redshirt freshman has emerged as one of the top receivers for the No. 25 Seminoles heading into Thursday's Champs Sports Bowl matchup with Notre Dame.
"I think I'm catching on right now," Green said.
Green's college career didn't start as planned after a standout prep career for the Crusaders.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Green was a U.S. Army All-American and one of the state's top recruits — and his 2010 signing was televised live by ESPNU. He expected to contend for playing time last fall, before a shoulder injury forced him to redshirt.
Green said his family taught him to remain positive on the sidelines. His father, Hiram Green, was an injury-plagued forward at USF, and he's related to former FSU star receiver E.G. Green.
"They've been in the same situation I'm in," Green said. "I'm just listening to them, talking to them. They'll give you good advice."
Green started slowly this fall, catching two passes in his first three games before breaking out with a seven-catch, 77-yard game against Clemson. He started four games after that and ranks second on the team with 17.9 yards per catch, third in receiving yards (447) and fifth in receptions (25) as one of quarterback EJ Manuel's tallest targets.
"He's great with the ball in space, making plays," Manuel said. "He shakes people off and gets upfield and gets yards for us."
Green hasn't found the end zone, but he has made several important plays. His 102-yard game against Wake Forest was only the seventh time in school history that a freshman broke the 100-yard mark. His 59-yard reception against Duke set up a touchdown in a 41-16 victory that snapped the 'Noles' three-game losing streak.
Others have noticed Green's progression. CollegeFootballNews.com named him an honorable mention freshman All-American. FSU chose him as the offense's most improved player.
"Getting better and better, learning the slot," coach Jimbo Fisher said of Green. "Christian's a guy who's great with the ball in his hands and is really developing into a receiver."
Green said he's running more than ever to hone the athleticism and speed he showed in high school, when he caught 10 TDs as a freshman and totaled for 1,500 yards and 18 TDs as a senior. But he's still adjusting to life outside the pocket. He continues to learn how to finish routes and read coverages.
Fisher stopped him during Monday's practice when Green missed one assignment, running for a deep ball instead of stopping at a hole in the secondary.
"That comes in time," Fisher said. "He's really developing himself and I think has got a great future ahead of him."
FSU hopes that future starts this week in a stadium that hasn't been kind to Green.
He guided Tampa Catholic to the Florida Citrus Bowl for the Class 2A state title game in 2007 and the 2B championship game 2009. Both ended in double-digit losses and silver medals.
Green said a big game and that elusive first touchdown Thursday would exorcise those bad memories and make the hard work and long wait worthwhile.
"It's really good though," Green said. "I've got a long way to go."
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]