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Dawg days here again
Former Raider, Viking looking for spots in receiver rotation
Freshman Bulldog receiver Tavarres King, a Habersham Central grad, takes a break during practice Monday at the University of Georgia - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times
ATHENS — Georgia wide receivers Tavarres King and Walter Hill have already created a buzz. Fortunately for these two local products, it’s for their talents on the field, and not for the off-the-field issues that Bulldogs coach Mark Richt spent the majority of his time addressing in front of the press before the team’s first practice Monday in Athens.

Richt hasn’t been able to focus on football as much as he would like, due to the rash of arrests and other player transgressions. The long offseason was capped off with two more arrests last weekend and another player getting slapped with a two-game suspension.

"Of course, the off-the-field issues are embarrassing," Richt said. "I get a sick feeling and feel sad when a player that I love and care about gets in trouble.

"I think that there is no question that the reputation of this team has been damaged."

Meanwhile, King, a Habersham Central graduate and The Times 2007 Football Player of the Year, is making a name for himself in just a short time since enrolling early last year. It’s clear from the sentiments of Georgia’s returning leaders that King could make an immediate impact.

"Tavarres King is the real deal and has a very good work ethic," junior cornerback Asher Allen said. "He is a slender receiver and is very fast. He fits into the mold of Sean Bailey, who was a very good receiver for us."

King (6-foot-1, 181 pounds) finished his high school career with the Raiders with 3,726 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns, and will be watched closely to see if he will be able to step in and play immediately, or if he’ll be redshirted in 2008. King feels like he’s ready to step in and play.

"I really want to stay humble and just focus on doing things perfect," King said. "But I would love to get to play right away, and I feel like I’m ready to contribute."

Richt made it clear that no decisions on redshirting players will be made until the coaching staff gets a chance to see the freshmen in action in the first team scrimmage.

Bulldogs quarterback Matt Stafford said that King may be at the point where he can contribute right away. Georgia’s veteran wide receivers share Stafford’s sentiment.

"Tavarres is a silky-smooth athlete," Georgia senior wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. "He has a lot of talent."

Hill, a 2007 graduate of East Hall, had the benefit of redshirting last season and getting acclimated to wide receiver at the college level. He is currently listed at No. 5 on the depth chart at split end, two spots behind King.

Allen added that Hill, with his 6-5, 214-pound frame, is especially difficult for defenders. The former East Hall quarterback and basketball standout played one season at wide receiver in high school before making his way to Georgia.

"My biggest strength is my height and that I’m bigger than everyone else," Hill said. "I think redshirting last season was good for me to learn how to play wide receiver."

Still most of the questions to Richt dealt with the arrests last weekend of long snapper Jeff Henson, a West Hall High graduate, and Donavon Baldwin. Junior linebacker Darius Dewberry will serve a two-game suspension and will have to pay restitution to St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens for damaging property Saturday night.

Richt admitted second guessing his decision to start practice a week later than allowed, which he did to give players and coaches another weekend to spend with their families before coming back for practice.

Richt said the player arrests are not a reflection of the players’ sense of entitlement with Georgia’s recent No. 1 ranking in the coaches poll. That poll is good news for the Bulldogs since it makes up 1/3 of the equation involved in determining who gets to play for the national championship in January.

Georgia’s schedule is arguably the toughest in the nation with road games against South Carolina, Arizona State, Florida, LSU and Auburn. Richt hopes that getting back into the grind of preparing for such a challenging slate will put an end to all the off the field chaos.

We’re all very excited about this season," Stafford said. "There’s no question we have a heck of a schedule to prepare for."

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