Smart on Pickens: ‘This Kid Loves the Ball’

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Smart on Pickens: ‘This Kid Loves the Ball’

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During a recent interview with Kevin Negandhi and David Pollack, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was asked about the offseason development of sophomore wide receiver George Pickens.

Pickens was Georgia’s leading receiver last season hauling in 49 passes for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. He earned All-SEC freshman honors and also was admired for his MVP performance in the Sugar Bowl win over Baylor where he caught 12 passes for 175 yards and a score.

Smart stated in that interview on ESPN’s College Football Podcast that Pickens isn’t done yet.

“We didn’t get to see him go out there in the spring, but this guy showed us what he could do last year,” Smart said. “We’re going to have to do a really good job of putting him in spots so people can’t figure him out, but we better get some help. There are things you can do to dictate coverage with one guy, but if you can get that second guy, and with the backs we’ve got, that will make me feel much better.”

Smart and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken are anticipating that help will come from a number of contenders, including guys like Demetris Robertson, Matt Landers, Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock. The Bulldogs also have a talented group of freshman that includes Jermaine Burton, Arian Smith, Marcus Rosemy and Justin Robinson. But also don’t count out incoming freshman speedster Ladd McConkey as well.

However, it’s expected that all of these guys will follow behind Pickens, who’s slated to become one of the next great receivers in the conference.

Smart also stated that Pickens has more eye-grabbing catches coming in the near future.

“This kid loves ball. He’s as natural catching the ball as I’ve ever seen,” Smart said. “He has great hands. Some of the catches he makes in practice are off the charts, and I get to see it every day.”

George Pickens (1) - Georgia vs. Murray State 2019; third Quarter; Game; 2019 UGA Football; George Pickens
George Pickens (1) – Georgia vs. Murray State 2019; third Quarter; Game; 2019 UGA Football; George Pickens

Smart added that Pickens’ energy is at a very high-level and you can tell he only wants to get better. He has a great frame standing at 6-foot-3 and his athleticism is off the charts. Smart believes that this is only the beginning of of what a great career Pickens can have in Athens.

“He loves football. He loves football to the point where sometimes it hurts him,” Smart said. “He’s just so energetic for every catch, he just wants to be excited. He wants to be great with the other players.”

Recently, Pro Football Focus posted a metic that rated Pickens as the highest graded receiver in the Power 5 conferences from the left outside spot on the field. The analytics-based website gave him a 90.1 mark in that spot. After his performance last year, one can only imagine the production that he will have under Monken in Georgia’s new offensive system.

Pickens will become UGA’s first leading receiver to return for the next season since Chris Conley did in 2014. Since that time, Malcolm Mitchell, Isaiah McKenzie, Javon Wims, and Riley Ridley have all led the team in receiving but left the program at the end of the season.

“That’s just George. He’s hungry, he’s maturing, and physically he’s developed more,” Smart said. “He’s added five to seven pounds; he’s a little faster. He’s not a college freshman anymore. He’s stronger. I’ve been really impressed with the changes in his body.”

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.