Kirby Smart discusses return of Georgia receivers George Pickens, Dom Blaylock

ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart indicated Tuesday night that the Bulldogs’ receiving corps is about to get better — like, real fast.

Smart said that wideouts Dominick Blaylock and Kearis Jackson have been cleared to play. Blaylock, who has been out since the end of the 2019 season with the first of two knee injuries, warmed up Saturday but did not play against Clemson. Jackson, who had an arthroscopic procedure done on his knee this summer, returned punts in the game but did not play any offensive snaps.

“They’re repping; they’re going. Basically, they’re cleared,” Smart said after the Bulldogs’ full-contact practice on Tuesday. “Kearis was out there. Dom’s working out, he’s practicing every day. It’s a matter of those guys working themselves back in.”

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (1-0) play host to UAB (1-0) on Saturday at Sanford Stadium (3:30 p.m., ESPN2).

George Pickens Sr., the father of Georgia’s star wideout, created a stir over the weekend when he posted on social media that his son might be on his way back soon.

“Coldest in the nation. The return is on the way. GP1. Go Dawgs!” the elder Pickens wrote on Facebook above a photo of his son’s diving catch against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl.

Smart was less optimistic when asked Tuesday about a timetable for Pickens’ return.

“He’s rehabbing every day. He’s lifting every day. He’s going to school and doing all his school work and he’s done a good job of doing that. So we’ll see,” Smart said. “We don’t know. He gets kind of a monthly update. We haven’t had an update in quite a while.”

Smart said Pickens has an appointment scheduled with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews that should provide the Bulldogs with more clarity. Meanwhile, Pickens is rehabbing in UGA’s training room and doing “straight-line running” at the football complex.

“But I have no idea of a date of return,” Smart said. “That’s just too far out right now.”

Pickens, a junior from Hoover, Ala., is Georgia’s leading receiver with 85 catches for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns the last two seasons. He suffered a torn ACL in the fourth session of spring practice on March 22. It has been five months since he underwent surgery.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Pickens projected as a first-round NFL draft pick before the injury.

With both Pickens and Jackson sidelined, the Bulldogs and quarterback JT Daniels struggled to throw the ball effectively against Clemson. Daniels averaged just 6.1 yards per completion on 22-of-30 for 135 yards passing. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint led the seven wideouts who played with two catches for 12 yards. Freshman tight end Brock Bowers was Georgia’s leading receiver with six receptions for 43 yards.

Neither Blaylock nor Jackson, Georgia’s last two starters in the slot, are 100 percent yet, Smart said. Flanker Jermaine Burton (ankle) started Saturday but also is below 100 percent.

Georgia started redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey in the slot against Clemson. Smart indicated that Blaylock might actually be further along than Jackson, who tied Pickens for the team lead with 36 receptions a year ago.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Blaylock, a redshirt sophomore from Marietta, had back-to-back tears of the same ACL when he went down in preseason camp last year.

“Dom has been practicing for a while,” Smart said. “He’s getting confidence back in his knee. He’s getting stamina back. He’s getting contact. He’s getting reps back. It’s more than just saying ‘he’s cleared.’ It goes back to our quarterback last year. You can’t just say, ‘oh, you’ve got to put him out there.’ No, it takes more than that. You’re out there with people trying to knock your head off and you had an ACL surgery. You’d like to be 100 percent of your old self and it may take a little while, especially on a second ACL. So, he’s cleared to practice and he does all kinds of things. But there’s a difference between being game ready and going out there and practicing.”

Dawg Tags: The AJC presents a daily look at the one thing you need to know about Georgia athletics today.