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Former local prep standouts now competing for playing time at Georgia

POSTED: April 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/Photo courtesy of University of Georgia

Habersham Central graduate Tavarres King, now a receiver at Georgia, prepares to make a catch during a recent spring practice.

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ATHENS — Georgia wide receivers Walter Hill and Tavarres King have good reason to approach today’s spring football game with a different perspective.

Hill, an East Hall High graduate, already has a year under his belt on campus as a redshirt during the 2007 season. He’s already been through a full season with the Bulldogs football program and is acclimated to life as a college football player.

On the other hand, Habersham Central graduate King, the Times 2007 Football Player of the Year, still needs a name tag to let his teammates know who he is. As an early enrollee at Georgia, he’s learning on the fly what it takes to compete at the college level.

This won’t be Hill’s first time on the field at Sanford Stadium with the team. He spent 2007 cheering the Bulldogs from the sideline, watching his teammates up close to see what details of the game he could pick up. King, on the other hand, will be making his first trip out of the tunnel this afternoon wearing the Georgia uniform.

"The G-Day game is all about confidence," King said. "I want to prove that I belong out there on the field."

But even with a year’s difference in their experience as Georgia football players, both of these players will make their first appearances in front of the Georgia fans.

"I’m very excited about the G-Day game," Hill said. "Georgia has the best fans, so I’m looking forward to getting out there to play."

Hill has already drawn attention for his ability to make plays. During the Bulldogs’ first spring scrimmage in particular, he was highlighted for his ability to make difficult catches look routine.

But Georgia coach Mark Richt isn’t ready to sing his praises yet.

"Walter is like a lot of guys, in that he will do something special and then make a mistake," Richt said. "He’s a little inconsistent at times, but when he does it right you get jacked."

Hill’s first appearance in front of the home crowd is a little more personal. For him, touchdown catches and yardage aren’t the determining factor of a successful debut.

"I just want to make my mom proud," Hill said. "If’s she’s proud of how I did, then I’m happy."

Both of these former local standouts have already been broken down and know they aren’t necessarily the best player on the field anymore. Now they’re getting built back up to be ready to fight for playing time among a deep group of Georgia receivers. They are going to have to battle against Mohamed Massaquoi, Demiko Goodman, Kenneth Harris, Kris Durham, Tony Wilson and high school All-American A.J. Green for time on the field.

"The competition among the receivers is great," Hill said. "These guys are all so talented."

Hill and King can relate to the fact that life in the SEC isn’t always easy. They both learned early in their experiences that nothing is handed to you for being a great high school player.

Hill learned his lesson the first day of practice. He said he ran a poor route off the line and a pass intended for him was picked off by Ramarcus Brown. Frustrated by his mistake, he gave up on his pursuit as Brown took back down field. The coaches let him know right then never to make that mistake again.

"The biggest difference from high school to college is adjusting to the speed of the game," Hill said. "You have to be physical because you’re going against the best of the best."

King also learned early that the talent level is an exponential leap from the high school game. Early in the spring drills he got a wake-up call with Georgia’s top cornerback Asher Allen consistently right in his face off the line of scrimmage.

"It’s all about speed at this level," King said. "You have to stay on your P’s and Q’s."

Hill took advantage of his year not playing to get bigger and stronger. He enters spring as one of Georgia’s more physical receivers at 6-4, 208 pounds.

King doesn’t regret his decision to dive right into college life and pass on his final semester of high school life. The all-time leader in receptions at Habersham Central says he would encourage other players in his situation to make the same decision.

"I think enrolling early was the greatest decision I’ve made in my life," King said. "You get a jump on college life and get school under your belt without having football every day."



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