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Hebron itching to make long-awaited debut.


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Georgia's quartet of Parade All-Americans from its 2006 recruiting class have made quite the impact.

You might have heard about them: third-year starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, a redshirt sophomore tailback named Knowshon Moreno and starting safety Reshad Jones.

The other guy? He's still waiting to take his first college snap for the Bulldogs.

"I'm definitely ready to get it started, especially after watching the boys last year, and the year before that redshirting," linebacker Akeem Hebron said.

"I'm definitely still eager to get out there and play. I still haven't played in front of a big crowd yet."

Hebron's Georgia debut was delayed when he was suspended from the university for the fall in 2007 after being arrested twice in a two- month period for underage alcohol possession.

Hebron, now 20, spent last season at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville as his Georgia teammates enjoyed an 11-2 season that ended with seven straight wins.

"Akeem came in and was very motivated as most of the guys who have been in a similar type circumstances have been over the years," GMC coach Bert Williams said.

"He took right to what we were requiring him to do and did a great job in getting in line with the cadet corps."

Not that he loved the structured military regimen.

"They basically just own you at all times," Hebron said. "It definitely helped me as a person to go there. I think it definitely changed me as a person. Now, I just see things in a different perspective."

Hebron left Georgia for GMC just like past Bulldogs linebackers Odell Thurman and Josh Johnson did before.

"Obviously, it's a change of college lifestyle to what he's used to up there in Athens," Williams said.

"But I would say looking at the group of guys that have come through from Athens over the years, Akeem was in much stronger shape in terms of being close to doing what he needed to do to be successful at the University of Georgia," Williams added.

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said Hebron simply made some bad decisions during his first stay in Athens.

"Personally, Akeem is a good kid," Martinez said. "He's not a defiant guy. The thing that he got into was poor judgment."

Hebron saw what he was missing last year when he watched Georgia games on television and attended the victory over Auburn when Sanford Stadium was electric during the Bulldogs' "Blackout."

"I definitely wished I was there on the sidelines," Hebron said.

Now, Hebron is trying to work his way onto the field.

The redshirt sophomore is competing with freshman Marcus Dowtin at backup weakside linebacker behind Rennie Curran after Darryl Gamble was moved to backup middle linebacker.

"I think it's opened up some doors for him," linebackers coach John Jancek said. "He's just got to take advantage of it. I think he can definitely give us some quality reps in there."

Said Hebron: "We'll see how things go from here on out the rest of camp, but hopefully I'll get a chance to step out and get on the field more than just special teams."

Hebron sustained a bruised ankle this past Saturday, but said he expected to be back by midweek at the latest.

"It's early, but he's had a good camp," Martinez said. "He's come back in better shape than he's ever been. He's bigger. He put some weight on and put some strength on."

That was by design.

The 6-foot-1 Hebron said he weighed about 200 pounds when he arrived at Georgia two years ago out of Good Counsel High in Maryland, but is now about 230.

Hebron is bigger, but admits he might be "a little step" slower.

"We wanted to get some size on him," Martinez said. "If you're gaining some weight, we like them to keep their quickness. Hopefully, he's not too slow, but the size was important for him to gain moreso than gaining weight."

Georgia fans received a glimpse of what Hebron could bring when he had a game-high five tackles on G-Day and recovered and returned a fumble 40 yards.

Now, he's ready to make plays for real just like Stafford, Moreno and Jones.

"Basically, just help the team wherever I'm needed," Hebron said. "We've got a great group of linebackers this year and we're all just working hard to get better all together."

August 30

Georgia Southern at No. 1 Georgia

Sanford Stadium

12:30 p.m. (PPV)

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 081208

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