- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- When Georgia finally released its post-spring depth chart in June, a somewhat surprising name sat atop the Bulldogs' depth chart at fullback -- that of walk-on Merritt Hall.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Hall earned the honor because "he was striking people with a lot of enthusiasm." Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was even more effusive in his praise for the converted linebacker.
"I'll tell you, Merritt Hall was just the biggest surprise for me out of spring," Bobo said.
Hall played the position for the first time last year, as a freshman member of the scout team, after predominantly playing linebacker at Wesleyan, a small private school in suburban Atlanta.
He said there are plenty of parallels between the two positions, however, so the transition was not particularly difficult.
"It's not that much different from linebacker," said Hall, now a redshirt freshman. "You just hit the c--- out of people."
His willingness to do just that is what won the Georgia coaches' attention and what earned him a long look in the spring, after 2011 starter Bruce Figgins completed his eligibility. Fullback is a high-contact position, and after adding 20 pounds in the last year to reach his current weight of 235, Hall can pack a strong punch.
"He comes to work every day, never takes a play off, so when you're going against him, you know what's going to happen. You're going to have to meet him in the hole," linebacker Jarvis Jones said. "But you've got to love him because he brings the tempo for the offense."
The coaches named Hall as the team's outstanding offensive walk-on at the end of spring practice and gave him the No. 1 fullback designation ahead of scholarship players Richard Samuel and Alexander Ogletree.
All three players -- plus true freshman Quayvon Hicks, who arrived in June -- still figure into the mix at fullback, so Hall faces no shortage of competition to start between now and the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo.
"I don't really think about it," Hall said. "I just try to go out and have the best practice that I can and just take advantage of the opportunities that Coach B-Mac [running backs coach Bryan McClendon] has given me. That should be good enough. I know they're working just as hard, as they should. Obviously if you like to compete, you want to be playing on Saturdays."
Hicks has already generated excitement in the early days of camp, and he is surprisingly agile for a player listed at 262 pounds on the Bulldogs' preseason roster.
"If you see him out there, he can move," Hall told reporters on Friday. "So if he weighs that much and he can move, once we put the pads on, I think you guys are going to be surprised by that."
But Hall is obviously not the type to back down from a challenge, so he fully expects to remain among the contenders to start -- showing the same attitude that got him into this position to begin with.
Asked whether he believed he had a chance to become the top fullback by the end of spring practice, Hall might be the only one who'd say he thought it could happen all along.
"Every time I went out there, I just tried to go full speed, and you've got to learn the playbook. Obviously you want to be dependable," Hall said. "So I just went out every day like that and I wasn't going to sell myself short.
"If you want to play and you want to be the starter, you've got to believe you can do that, so yeah, I did believe it."
By the time spring practice ended, Hall had converted his coaches and teammates into believers as well.
21hEthan Sherwood Strauss