When a video of George Pickens making a leaping, one-handed, sideline snag of a pass behind a defensive back in Georgia’s Aug. 10 scrimmage made its way to the Internet and “went viral,” fans were sure that Georgia coach Kirby Smart would go berserk.
The Bulldogs’ scrimmages are rigidly closed to all but players’ parents and select donors, who are strictly advised not to share what they see there.
Turns out, Smart wasn’t upset at all. He might’ve even liked it a little.
“I mean, I saw it live, so I was, like, ‘shoot,’” Smart said during his post-scrimmage media time Saturday, a week later. “He’s a special player. It was a great catch. I wouldn’t say just like that, but he’s had several one-handed catches in practice. I mean, he’s a talented player.”
And Pickens isn’t the only one. It’s becoming apparent that the intense competition for playing time, coupled with targeted recruiting at the wide receiver position, have resulted in more than a few of them displaying some explosive playmaking tendencies during preseason camp. Including tight end Isaac Nauta, the Bulldogs lost their top five pass-catchers off last season’s team, or a total of 2,323 yards, 154 receptions and 27 touchdowns.
But including walk-ons, at least 16 receivers are in Georgia’s camp battling to replace that production. That includes former 5-star recruits Pickens, Dominick Blaylock and Demetris Robertson and a host of lettermen with varied levels of experience.
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Apparently quarterback Jake Fromm and all those guys were hitting on all cylinders Saturday as the Bulldogs’ conducted their second controlled scrimmage of the preseason at Sanford Stadium. A week after criticizing the No. 1 offense’s play, Smart said “explosive plays” were the order of the day.
And those plays were being made by the wideouts.
“A LOT of the receivers,” Smart emphasized. “Last scrimmage it seemed like a lot of the backs, the backfield, had some big plays. It was the wideouts as a group. (Lawrence) Cager had one. George had one. Tyler (Simmons) had one. We had several guys have explosive plays. Explosive to me is over 12, 13 yards. Kearis (Jackson) had a big one. So, it seemed pretty balanced on the explosive plays.”
Fromm, the junior Heisman Trophy candidate, deserves some of the credit as well.
“I think that we’ve got some explosive playmakers, and we’ve got a quarterback that throws the deep ball well,” Smart said. “It’s really one of his better passes and they were able to connect on some of those today."
Pickens, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound freshman from Hoover, Ala., has been creating excitement since he signed in February with Georgia over Auburn and Alabama in a fierce recruiting battle. But the Bulldogs already felt good about a group of projected starters, including sophomore Matt Landers, senior Tyler Simmons and Robertson.
The key now is figuring out who and how many are going to “make the bus.” Opening the season on the road in an SEC game against Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs can dress out only 70, as is the conference mandate.
How many of those will end up being receivers is going to be a difficult decision for Georgia’s coaches to make. Last year, the Bulldogs often traveled with as many as 10 wideouts because so many of them also contributed on special teams.
At the moment, Smart’s just glad they don’t have to make that decision yet.
“We’re not going to make them right now,” Smart said. “We’ve got two weeks to finalize those choices and decisions.”
Odds seem to be increasing that Pickens will be in that bunch. But, predictably, Smart’s not ready to pronounce that a done deal.
“He’s got to learn his assignments and learn what to do,” Smart said, “but he can certainly help us.”
Thanks to pirated video, we’ve all seen that.
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