ATLANTA — Demaryius Thomas disproved the notion that a receiver can't thrive in Georgia Tech's spread option offense.
Stephen Hill wants to prove Thomas' success wasn't a fluke.
The spread option is a run-first offense, but "Bay-Bay" Thomas was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos this year after his 46 receptions for 1,154 yards and eight TDs in 2009. Thomas was the second Georgia Tech receiver in four years to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft. Calvin Johnson was the No. 2 overall pick by Detroit in 2007.
Hill, a sophomore, had only six catches for 137 yards and one touchdown last year. Now he hopes this will be his turn to be the feature receiver, even if he is reluctant to be compared with Thomas and Johnson.
"People are always saying 'How are you going to compare to Bay-Bay?' or 'Are you the next Calvin Johnson?"' Hill said Wednesday. "I always say I'm not either one of those guys. I'm Stephen Hill and I'm going to do what Stephen Hill can do."
Thomas posted startling numbers in coach Paul Johnson's offense, even though quarterback Joshua Nesbitt didn't throw the ball very often.
The Yellow Jackets were last in the Atlantic Coast Conference with only 126.7 yards passing per game, but still Thomas ranked second in the league with his 82.4 yards receiving per game.
When Nesbitt passed, he looked for Thomas, who for the last two years caught more passes than the combined total of Georgia Tech's other receivers. Thomas had about 56 percent (85 of 152) of the Yellow Jackets' receptions in 2008-09. He had 46 of the team's 78 completions last year.
Most receivers, including Hill, would love to have the chance to be targeted for more than half of his team's passes.
"I would like for it to be that type of distribution of passes," Hill said.
The expectation, however, is Nesbitt will look for more than one receiver this season.
"Bay-Bay is a great player and we feel like we have players who can replace him," Nesbitt said. "One player doesn't have to do the things that he can do, but we can spread the ball around more and be more efficient."
Paul Johnson confirmed Wednesday that Hill is a starter.
Hill is joined by Tyler Melton, Quentin Sims, Daniel McKayhan and Kevin Cone at receiver. Melton caught five passes while starting with Thomas most of the 2009 season.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Thomas won most battles for the ball against smaller defensive backs, especially when left in man coverages as opposing defenses were focused on stopping the run.
Nesbitt will have another big target in the 6-foot-5 Hill, who said he weighs 211 pounds — an increase of about 20 pounds from last year.
Hill set the state high school long jump record at 25 feet, 8 3/4 inches at Miller Grove High School in Lithonia. His jumping ability allows him to go high as well as long.
"He's got a little ups," Nesbitt said Wednesday with a smile.
Added Hill: "Everybody is like 'Wow, you can jump with pads on.' I can actually dunk with pads on. I feel kind of good getting out there and doing the same things Bay-Bay did last year."
Hill also has good speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds as a high school junior and said he feels faster now.
"He's a good deep threat and we're counting on him this year," Nesbitt said.
The combination of size, speed and jumping ability could make Hill a dangerous threat when facing one-on-one coverage.
"That's what Coach Johnson told me when he recruited me," Hill said. "He recruited me to do the things I'm doing now. I'm an athlete, so I can do a lot of things. If I need to catch the ball and go up the field, I can do that. If I need to go up and get a jump ball, I can do that."