It sure caught a lot of eyes. And clicks. And retweets.
Pickens certainly snared DawgNation’s attention in the process. And to be clear, several headlines on this site in the process.
A tweet provided one of the first glimpses of what the 5-star receiver can do.
He’s listed at 6 feet, 3 inches on the Georgia roster, but there seems to be a little more to him than that. That was made clear by what a 7-time state championship coach had to say about it.
Saw it everyday for 3 years, that is just routine for George. You ain’t see anything yet.
— Josh Niblett (@JoshNiblett) August 11, 2019
Niblett ranks among the finest leaders of young men I’ve ever been around in high school football.
His Hoover Bucs (the one from MTV “Two-A-Days” fame) will annually rate as one of the top programs in the Southeast every year. At least.
It was funny how that tweet revved the hype train for Pickens during fall camp and then a couple more tweets certified the play was by no means an anomaly.
Niblett’s set the table. Then there was another from the Hoover offensive coordinator.
There isn't a catch he could make that would amaze me anymore. We've seen it all the last 3 years at Hoover.
— bucs4theWIN (@JasonKervin) August 11, 2019
Jason Kervin, who shared his thoughts on the play below, is the offensive coordinator at Hoover.
“There isn’t a catch he could make that would amaze me anymore,” Kervin said in that tweet.
The coaches at Hoover have a pretty high threshold for amazing, but then Pickens raised that bar.
Pickens was an Under Armour All-American. He starred for two seasons on Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 teams. He finished as a 5-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite rating.
It placed him as the nation’s No. 4 WR prospect for the 2019 class. The Georgia freshman was the first 5-star signee at receiver for the program since Marlon Brown in 2009.
Here is what he did over his last two seasons in big-boy Alabama high school football:
- 2018 (All-state junior): 46 catches for 735 yards and five touchdowns. Pickens added two punt returns for touchdowns
- 2019 (All-state senior): 69 catches for 1,368 yards and 16 touchdowns. Pickens added a kickoff return touchdown
He finished out his high school career by snagging MVP honors in the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Game. That included two touchdown catches.
Kervin rates Pickens as the best he’s ever seen in high school football at receiver.
Where George Pickens came from
His family just calls him Malik. That’s his middle name. Some folks call him George, but those who really know will use Malik.
He is a product of a stout high school program. His oil was checked every day. If it was a very good Hoover team by their standards, then that means a preseason top 10 team in the top 10 national rankings.
Hoover will schedule IMG Academy every year. Niblett does so because is the best tune-up imaginable for winning another state title in Alabama’s highest classification.
The Bucs won the state title in Alabama’s highest classification during six of his 11 seasons. They have reached the state final in nine of his 11 years. The Hoover program (built by former Colquitt County coach Rush Propst) has reached the state championship in the state’s largest class 16 times this century.
It has led to 11 state titles since 2000.
That’s enough of an element to know Pickens comes from a culture of competing and working at the highest levels. Niblett, who played at Alabama, is a strength coach at his core.
His mission is to get the utmost out of his players each and every season. This is a coach that doesn’t just toss around praises lightly.
The third source on what to expect from Pickens this fall comes from a man who currently plays defensive back in the Canadian Football League.
Chris Humes was a standout DB for Arkansas State. He now plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
That’s his older brother.
“It was a great catch,” Humes said of the one-handed snare. “He definitely can do that consistently. He works on little things like that all the time.”
Chris Humes on what to expect from George Pickens at UGA
Humes is seven years older than Pickens. What up-and-coming receiver with All-American potential wouldn’t want to train with a college cornerback?
“Since we were kids we always used to play against each other,” Humes said. “I was his big brother so I always used to rough him up. He kind of grasped the concept he had to be a ‘Dawg.”
When Humes was a high school corner, he’d send 12-year-old George out on routes.
“He was the little brother,” Humes said. “Maybe 12 years old, but he was going to get pressed up. He had to see and learn what it was all about.”
Who wins the 1-on-1 tilts now? They haven’t settled that yet.
“I teach him all kind of types of different concepts to beat a DB. I will let him know this is how you beat me,” Humes, now 25, said. “We will do a lot of release work but when the ball is in the air either he will go for it and I will pull off or I will go for it and he will pull off. We don’t need to get tangled up or go to the ground. We’ve got bright futures ahead of us.”
What will Pickens need to play fast this fall?
“Just embracing the playbook and learning the playbook and learning it fast,” Humes said. “Which I don’t think will be a problem coming from a great high school program like the one at Hoover.”
“The rest, man, he’s a competitor, man. He is a ball of energy. People are going to be aware of that around him. They are going to want to match this dude’s intensity. He hates to lose a game. He hates to lose on a route and he hates to lose on any ball, be it a jump ball or a slant or anything.”
Humes said knowing who he is going against and playing to their strengths and weaknesses comes naturally to Pickens. He feels it is his best trait.
“If you’re going against a DB who likes to stare at the quarterback then he will play with his release and beat you,” Humes said. “If he’s playing against a DB who likes to talk and flare up, then he will take him out of his game verbally. He studies film. I don’t know. He’s like a generation ahead of his time. He’s like a 35-year-old player when it comes to that.”
Rewinding to when George Pickens chose Georgia
Pickens chose to make his final National Signing Day decision away from his high school. He did it at a community center in Hoover.
When he walked into that event, he really didn’t know what he was going to do yet.
Pickens was committed to Auburn for 566 days before he flipped to the Bulldogs. That was a tough one for fans of the Auburn Tigers.
Nolan Smith was committed to UGA for 690 days before he signed. If DawgNation can imagine what it would have been like for Smith to flip on signing day, then that is how the Tigers felt that morning.
Several sources told DawgNation Pickens went to that ceremony not knowing where he was going to go. Tennessee was on the phone talking to one member of his family. Auburn and Georgia were on other lines with other members of Team Pickens.
“It was the day of it all and I was pretty much shocked,” Humes said. “I was pretty much shocked like three minutes before the rest of the world and everybody else found out.”
Their 11th-hour conversation went like this.
HUMES: “This is the day. So what are you going to do, man?”
PICKENS: “I like Georgia.”
HUMES: “Just follow your heart. Because at the end of the day you are going to have to live with it. You will live there and play and go to school for three or four years. No matter where you go. You have to be comfortable with it.”
He did. Humes said that Pickens was happy and at ease with his decision once he signed.
Projecting George Pickens in college football
Humes was in camp with the Oakland Raiders in 2017. He’s still active in the CFL. He shared a piece of advice he feels will serve Pickens well at Georgia.
It came from one of his former coaches. Trooper Taylor was on the Auburn staff for a time before spending five seasons at Arkansas State. Taylor is now the WRs coach at Duke.
“Do what’s right off the field,” Humes said. “Trooper told me that if you do right, then right will follow you. That brings good karma. That means then you go into your study hall and do your academic thing the right way and be the best person you can be. If you do those things, the right things for your life will follow you.”
Humes has matched and covered the likes of former No. 1 overall prospect Dorial Green-Beckham when he was at Mizzou. Auburn’s Sammie Coates, a future third-round NFL draft pick, was another guy he covered in college.
Carlson Henderson, a third-round pick of the Broncos, was another tough draw.
That said, he didn’t see a lot of dudes like Pickens in college football.
“It is very rare,” Humes said of the skill set. “A lot of guys compare him to a Julio (Jones) because of his size and how physical he can be. Almost like a Keenan Allen with his juke moves and how flexible he is. He gets you going or leaning one way and then goes another. But then he is also almost like an A.J. Green with his game and the way he goes up and gets it in the air and how he tracks the ball.”
“There’s not a lot of guys like that. He’s extremely rare and this guy hasn’t even gone through a college strength and conditioning program yet. Just wait for that. When he puts on the weight he needs to get acclimated, it is going to be really special when he adds all of that to his game.”