Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill his own man

As talented as he might be, don’t confuse Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill for Demaryius “Bay-Bay” Thomas, the Jackets’ former wide receiver who was taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

“I’m not Bay Bay,” he said. “I’m not big like him. I’m a little bit faster than him. I just want to make a name for myself.”

There’s a very good possibility he’ll do that this fall.

At 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Hill has rare speed for a player his size, and he said he has put a lot of work into improving this offseason so he can be Georgia Tech’s next elite receiver. Hill played in all 13 games last year with one start, but he only had six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. The Jackets will need some help compensating for the loss of Thomas, who accounted for 46 catches, 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns last fall.

Thomas’ success in the run-based spread option offense has only encouraged Hill.

“It really caught my attention a lot just seeing the things he did the year before,” Hill said. “That’s what really pulled me towards coming to Georgia Tech, because Coach Johnson knows how to put the ball in the playmakers’ hands. Bay Bay was that playmaker. … I actually thought to myself, I know I can do it. I have to get better, get stronger, get faster, get bigger, I’m just ready for the season.”

Hill came to Georgia Tech ranked the No. 92 receiver in the country by ESPN Recruiting, and he was one of the top long jumpers in the country at Miller Grove High School in Georgia. As a senior, he broke the state long jump record with 25 feet, 8 ¾ inches -- a jump that would have won the 2009 ACC outdoor championship by 2.75 inches and would have tied for ninth at the most recent Olympic games.

He showed outstanding potential as a rookie at Georgia Tech last year, and is poised for a breakout season. Hill said everyone on staff from his strength coach to Johnson has been encouraging him and warning him not to get caught up in the preseason expectations.

“My mental approach, last year I was playing off height,” he said. “Now it’s more business. I’m trying to make it to the next level. I’m reading coverages different. I’m trying to stay in the film room as much as I can and see what’s going on.”

“You have to be a follower before you can be a leader,” he said. “Bay Bay showed me a lot and talked to me about a lot of different things before he left.”

Including how to make a name for yourself in a run-based offense.