For the first time since 2014, the Georgia Bulldogs will have their leading receiver from the previous season return for the following year. This is very unusual for a program like Georgia, but is huge for such a young receiving corps. Nevertheless, sophomore George Pickens hopes to provide another solid year in 2020 as he continues to grow as his collegiate career progresses.
Pickens had a breakout freshman year where he hauled in 49 passes for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. Although, there were some bumps in the road where Pickens’ immaturity showed. Especially against Georgia Tech when he got into with Yellow Jacket’s defender Trey Swilling. That altercation led to Pickens missing the first half of the SEC Championship game against LSU.
Since that incident, it seems like Pickens has grown up a little bit. He met with media on Friday via Zoom and revealed that since that incident he’s grown. After that suspension, he learned from the mistakes and since then put on a show in the Allstate Sugar Bowl during Georgia’s 26-14 win.
“Specifically, from the Sugar Bowl game, from then on, I’ve just been focusing on the team. That’s kind of how I got good in the Sugar Bowl game, and how I got the numbers I had— because I was just focused on the team,” Pickens said. “Now that’s what I’m really working on. I felt like I was (team-focused) before, but it wasn’t as important to me as it was to other people. So now it’s way more important to me.”
Now, Georgia’s receiving room is a little depleted after Dominick Blaylock suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Besides Pickens and a few upperclassmen, the Bulldogs have five freshman on the roster at wide receiver. There are also some questions surrounding if guys like Kearis Jackson and Matt Landers will actually contribute.
Head coach Kirby Smart needs to be certain that he count on his sophomore receiver to be a leader.
“George is a talented player. In terms of leadership, it starts from within; it starts with him. He’s got to do a great job of making sure he’s handling all the things that he’s got to do both on and off the field,” Smart said recently. “George is growing up, as all players do, and we need him to grow up faster. We need him to lead more. He’s certainly a talented player, but sometimes that can be a disease at Georgia that affects you. You have to be careful of that, because what makes George great: his love for the game. And you just cannot let that be a weakness; you’ve got to use it as a strength.”
Pickens knows that he is still growing, but is learning how to be a leader at the same time.
“It’s really just about staying wholesome. I make so many big plays, and I see on the Internet or things like that. And I see them getting riled up. But knowing me, I just have to stay calm and play as a team,” Pickens said. “This year, I’m mostly just focused on the team, because I see now that the team can win you a national championship. The team can win you an SEC Championship. If your team is grounded, then you’re going to win.”
His Sugar Bowl performance exhibited how dominant he can be. Also, expect a lot more out of him as Georgia transitions into a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Pickens admitted that he’s learning new things in Monken’s system.
“The biggest thing that has changed for me as a receiver under Coach Monken was just the split adjust, me being an outside edge or me being an inside edge. I feel like that helped me a lot, knowing he is an NFL guy…He and Coach [Cortez] Hankton are just two guys who can really help me improve.”