Top 5 candidates to succeed George Pickens as Georgia’s ‘X’ receiver

Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton (7) keeps his eye on the football during the Bulldogs’ practice session Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)
Caption
Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton (7) keeps his eye on the football during the Bulldogs’ practice session Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)

Credit: UGA Athletics

ATHENS — Georgia has plenty of other good receivers on its roster, but there’s only one George Pickens.

The challenge that faces the Bulldogs — now that Pickens’ is out for the year with a torn ACL — is determining whether they have a receiver that come close to giving them what Pickens did at the “X” position (split end) or shifting primary-target emphasis elsewhere.

Unearthing someone already on the team that can make the same sort of impactful plays routinely seems unlikely, to say the least.

“I don’t know what he looks like when you put a clock on him, but if George Pickens was in the route tree, it always felt like he was open,” said former Georgia great Matt Stinchcomb, who provides analysis for the SEC Network. “Even when he wasn’t open, he was open. It’s because he was just so competitive with the ball in the air. He could run one of those outside routes and they could just throw it up and know he was going to go get it almost every time. That’s not to say that’s not still available in Georgia’s wide receiver room, but I don’t know that anybody’s in there who has demonstrated it like Pickens has.”

Stinchcomb said his sentiment extends to the rest of the SEC.

“Looking across the conference, I can’t think of a comparable talent coming back,” Stinchcomb said. “Maybe Treylon Burks at Arkansas; he’s a freak. He might be Wide Receiver 1 in the SEC now. There’s just not many guys like Pickens.”

Burks is 6-foot-3 like Pickens and actually weighs more at 225 pounds. Pickens reportedly was going to play over 200 pounds for the first time in his career this year. It’s the combination of size, strength, speed, body control and sheer will power that set them apart when passes are coming their way. “Ball fight,” some call it.

Georgia has one of its most talented wide receiver rooms in years. But to this point none has demonstrated the level of ball fight Pickens brought to the field.

Caption
Georgia wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (81) stretched out for a catch during the Bulldogs’ practice session Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)

Credit: UGA Athletics

Georgia wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (81) stretched out for a catch during the Bulldogs’ practice session Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)
Caption
Georgia wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (81) stretched out for a catch during the Bulldogs’ practice session Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)

Credit: UGA Athletics

Credit: UGA Athletics

Regardless, Georgia needs someone to succeed Pickens as tough yards/big-play target for quarterback JT Daniels can depend on. Here are the top 5 candidates for that honor:

  1. Jermaine Burton, (jersey number 7): At 6-0, 195, he lacks the size and catch-radius of Pickens, but is faster and very athletic. Georgia was already working him at the X this spring after playing only the Y (flanker) last season. He was Dogs’ third-leading receiver as a true freshman with 27 catches for 404 yards and 3 TDs.
  2. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (81): The 6-2, 195-pound speedster actually emerged as Pickens’ backup as a freshman last year and stepped in when Pickens was sidelined with a midseason shoulder injury. But he broke his leg on a 32-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter against Florida and was sidelined for the year. He finished with 6 catches for 62 yards. He’s out for spring, though.
  3. Justin Robinson (17): This 6-4, 220-pound redshirt freshman is the closest to Pickens in terms of measurables. He couldn’t earn a spot in the rotation last year and was redshirted. But Georgia’s all-time leading receiver Terrence Edwards trained Robinson at his academy through high school and swears Robinson is similar to Pickens and A.J. Green in style and ability.
  4. Demetris Robertson (16): The 6-0, 190-pound senior worked almost exclusively at flanker last season. But he knows the playbook at split end and has excellent speed. His tough-catch factor would have to improve exponentially.
  5. Jaylen Johnson (23): This 6-2, 192-pound junior actually ended last season as Pickens’ backup. A longshot, but he has earned the complete trust of Georgia’s coaches.

Pickens’ successor eventually might come from early enrollees such as Jackson Meeks of Phenix City, Ala., or Adonai Mitchell of Missouri City, Texas. Neither player shared the recruiting pedigree of the 5-star Pickens. But they do share his physique (Meeks is 6-2, 205; Mitchell is 6-4, 190) and they were recruited specifically to play the X.

Caption
Georgia wide receiver Demetris Robertson (16) during the Bulldogs’ first practice session of the spring Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)

Credit: UGA Athletics

Georgia wide receiver Demetris Robertson (16) during the Bulldogs’ first practice session of the spring Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)
Caption
Georgia wide receiver Demetris Robertson (16) during the Bulldogs’ first practice session of the spring Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)

Credit: UGA Athletics

Credit: UGA Athletics

A number of other receivers could get a look. Sophomore Dominick Blaylock, coming off a second tear of the same ACL last August, is a slotback by trade and has the toughness and smarts to do it. The same goes for junior Kearis Jackson, the incumbent at slotback. But they’re the best where they are at present, which is an extremely important position in Georgia’s offensive scheme. And Blaylock’s out at least until preseason camp.

Meanwhile, the transfer portal is always open. But at last check, there aren’t any players like Pickens in there. As Stinchcomb points out, there just aren’t many Pickens anywhere.

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