George Pickens looks to bring old explosiveness to Michigan matchup

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Explosive plays are a commodity on the football field, and one that Georgia would love to have more of.

In his freshman and sophomore seasons, George Pickens was a water well of explosive plays that coach Kirby Smart consistently drew from. When a ball was thrown in his direction, anything was in the fold — mostly positives. But in only the fourth day of this year’s spring practice, that instant-ignition that Pickens brought each play was lost to a torn ACL.

Now, nine months later, that well is open and operational again. The only question: How much water can the Bulldogs draw from it?

“There are going to be some things that he’s continuing to work through, trusting the knee, obviously reps,” Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “We’re still trying to work him in and to make sure that he can help us offensively and most importantly help us win.”

Georgia has been slow with its roll-out of Pickens so far. Against Georgia Tech, the junior caught only one pass for five yards. In the SEC Championship game, he briefly displayed his knack for big plays with two catches for 41 yards, one of them going for 37 yards.

Even if Monken can’t get a fully-healthy Pickens, getting a portion of the player that posted 14 touchdowns and averaged almost 15 yards per catch in his first two seasons would be a much-needed boost for the Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl on Friday night. It would bring a new but familiar dimension to Georgia’s offense against a stout Michigan defense.

“Everyone has seen George play and knows he’s capable of doing,” wide receiver Kearis Jackson said. “Him being able to come back from that injury has been tremendous for not only himself, but for the team, as well. Him being out there brings a different atmosphere to the game.”

It’s certainly a quick turnaround for an ACL tear, but a 2021 return was always in the mix for Pickens. Within 48 hours of the tear in late March, Smart said that he thought there was a chance he’d be able to play for the Bulldogs this season. From that day, Pickens has been pushing his way back into playing shape.

“George has done a fantastic job of working to get back to give himself a chance to play at the back end of this season,” Monken said. “When I think back to the spring when he injured his knee and I thought, wow, what a disappointment for him and his development and for us. But he has done a fantastic job of trying to get back.”

Pickens’ explosiveness is a resource the Bulldogs would love to draw from again. The issue is there may not be as much as they’d wish. There could be only a few opportunities for him at Hard Rock Stadium, but for Pickens to show his impact, he may not need much more than that.