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Wide Receiver U?


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Over the past six years, two receivers from Georgia Tech have been the first players from their position chosen in the NFL draft – Calvin Johnson (No. 2 overall, 2007) and Demaryius Thomas (No. 22, 2010).

No other school has even had more than two receivers drafted in the first round during that span.

Despite the high achievement of the former Yellow Jacket wideouts, Georgia Tech is known more for their triple-option, run-based offense. But receiver prospect Stephen Hill hopes to continue the trend of first-round wide receivers from the Ramblin' Wreck.

As a wideout in an offense that attempted the third-fewest passes in all of NCAA FBS Division Football during the 2011 season, Hill didn't have many opportunities to showcase his talents. He averaged 63.1 receiving yards per game, which ranked 79th in the country.

"It really wasn't frustrating," Hill said when asked about playing wide receiver in a run-first offense. "Yes, you're a wide receiver and you want to get the ball. But I like to win and any time you want to help out a team that's a good thing."

With pedestrian stats and limited opportunities in college, why is Hill being considered a potential first-round pick this April?

His 29.3 yards per catch led all qualifying receivers – with the next closest receiver coming in at 21.3 yards per catch.

That same big-play ability is what led Thomas, who ranked second in the nation with 25.1 yards per catch during his final year at Georgia Tech and Johnson, who ranked 35th with 15.8 yards per catch in 2006, to become the first receivers off the board in their draft classes.

Hill knows that Thomas and Johnson, who also left school for the NFL after their junior years, played in the same offense where passing plays were seldom called. Since Johnson's junior season in 2006, Georgia Tech has averaged nearly twice the rushing yards per game than passing yards. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for 245 yards per game while passing for only 135 in that span.

Hill looks up to Johnson and Thomas and sees some of himself in each of their skillsets.

"I can say Calvin Johnson because he has the speed, he has the height to jump up and go get it, he said. "Yes, he's bigger, he's Megatron, I know that. But that's who I compare myself to.

"Of course, both of us are big," he said, comparing himself to Thomas. "I'm a little bit taller. I feel like I'm a little bit faster, too, but he's actually heavier. He knew the game well because he was older and things of that nature."

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock saw similarities between Hill and Thomas as well.

"The tough thing with Stephen Hill is coming out of that option offense, he's hard to evaluate," Mayock said. "From a football perspective, every team in the league now has a lot of homework to do. He's a hard guy to figure out, just like Demaryius Thomas was because you don't see real routes. All you see are verticals and crosses and play-action and jump balls."

While Georgia Tech's triple-option offense limited Hill's chances to showcase his receiving abilities, it allowed him to put other aspects of his game on tape for NFL scouts to see.

"In a way, yes (it was a disadvantage)," he said about the Georgia Tech offense. "But it showed that I fought every play. I came out there, wasn't selfish and whatever the coach told me to do I went ahead and did it."

Hill boosted his draft stock with his performance at the Combine, tying for the second-fastest time among all participants this year with a 4.36 40-yard dash. His broad jump of 11 feet, 1 inch tied for the lead among all participants in 2012 and was just three inches from the all-time record.

"Stephen Hill killed it," Mayock said. "I had a bunch of scouts tell me before the combine this kid might blow the roof off of it, and he did."

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