Receiver expected to go to Florida
By DAVID MITCHELL
Numbers don't matter much to Marqui Hawkins.
The 423 receiving yards and six touchdowns he had for Carver High in 2012 for a run-heavy offense don't compare to the region championship and state quarterfinals appearance he helped his team achieve. The three stars next to his name on Scout.com are just about as important.
Does he want the ball, as former professional wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson used to say? Sure. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to whether he has helped his team win, and that's what sets him apart, said Tigers coach Dell McGee.
"He's a very unselfish player," McGee said. "He's willing to get his hands dirty and carry out his blocks. Being in the offense we ran, receivers are really depended on to block for the run game, so the team concept is something that's already installed for him."
Hawkins, who has been committed to the University of Florida for about nine months, is expected to sign his letter-of-intent to play for the Gators today at Carver.
In doing so, he will pass up scholarship offers from a host of premier programs: Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson, among others. Even Southern California got in the mix for the receiver.
The lack of mind-blowing receiving statistics isn't to say Hawkins couldn't have made his mark in the box scores, as well.
At 6-foot-2, nearly 200 pounds and possessing above-average speed, Hawkins could easily have made his mark statistically. One thousand yards and 10-plus touchdowns might have been attainable had an explosive passing game been more of a priority.
McGee noted Hawkins' "great potential" to catch the ball in traffic, something Hawkins demonstrated on an impressive touchdown catch in a win against Peach Country earlier this season when he snagged a pass well over his head in the back corner of the end zone, came down and managed to keep his toes inbounds.
And he still has plenty to learn.
"He has great physical attributes and he hasn't reached his full potential," McGee said. "Being in a great strength and conditioning program like he will at Florida, his body will mature more. His physical attributes will be increased tremendously."
Like Carver, Florida is an offense based more in the run game than in the passing game.
McGee said he thinks that's partially a result of the lack of strong play at the receiver position, some
thing Hawkins can improve in time.
Florida will likely sign a handful of other talented receivers in this class, including Peach County standout Demarcus Robinson.
There will be plenty of competition for playing time in this class, but the opportunity for early looks will be there.
"The opportunity to play early is wide open for Marqui," McGee said, "for all the receivers."
Whether Hawkins wins the team over with his pass-catching ability or not remains to be seen. Make no mistake, though, he's willing to do what it takes.
If that means putting in extra reps in practice to help the first stringers, fine. If it means taking the field on a running down to clear a hole for a ball carrier, no problem.
And if it means reaching his full potential as a wide receiver and becoming a bona fide threat in the passing game, all the better.
No matter what happens, that flexibility will be key in the player's growth.
"Having a great attitude is always important," McGee said. "He's going into a situation that is a lot tougher than any he's been through. Having a positive attitude will help him transition through the tough times."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571