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George Pickens might be the biggest winner from the Todd Monken hiring.

Why George Pickens might be the biggest winner in new Georgia football offense

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Why George Pickens might be the biggest winner in the Todd Monken offense

Much has been and will be made of what new offensive coordinator Todd Monken is able to get out of the quarterback position with graduate transfer Jamie Newman likely taking the reins. Given Monken’s extensive background with the air raid offense and Newman’s deep passing ability, the Georgia passing offense figures to look different from when Jake Fromm and James Coley had the wheel.

For all the talk though about Monken and his work with quarterbacks, it isn’t his biggest area of expertise. Sure he’s gotten huge seasons out of the likes of Nick Mullens and Brandon Weeden. But only for his two seasons with Weeden at Oklahoma State has being a quarterbacks coach been a part of his actual job title.

Related: National media forms consensus on new Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken

He’s much more versed as a wide receivers coach, a position he’s held at both the highest levels of college football and in the NFL. Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had over 1,500 receiving yards in Monken’s final season in Tampa Bay. This past year in Cleveland, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham both topped the 1,000-yard plateau.

And Monken’s success with the position has translated to the college game. Which could mean we’re in for a very big season from one George Pickens.

For all the hype and excitement around Newman, it probably doesn’t match what Pickens will have entering his sophomore season. He was the first 5-star wide receiver Georgia signed in a decade and he managed to live up to expectations in his first year despite the problems with the Georgia passing attack.

He led the team in catches (49), yards (727) and touchdown catches (eight). He capped the season with an MVP performance in the Sugar Bowl where he caught 12 passes for 175 yards and a sweet touchdown grab.

It wasn’t all rosy though for Pickens in 2019. He missed the first half of the Georgia Tech game for an undisclosed violation of team rules. In the second half of said game, he scored a touchdown — proving his value — and got ejected for hurling a Georgia Tech defender into the wall.

“I’ve still got growing to do,” Pickens said after the Sugar Bowl win. “But I can kind of tell myself that I’m improving every day.”

Pickens’ absence was glaring in the first half of the SEC championship game. He scored a touchdown in the second half of the game, but it was the only one of the game for Georgia. By the time he had made his presence known, it was over as the Bulldogs fell 37-10.

Given this is the first time since 2012 that Georgia won’t return a running back who had at least 500 rushing yards the previous season, Pickens easily enters as the most talented player on that side of the ball.

Related: Georgia football has SEC’s highest-rated quarterback-receiver combo

And if Monken’s past work is an indication of what Pickens might be able to do, the sophomore from Hoover, Ala., could have a historic season in terms of what we see from a Georgia wide receiver.

Monken last worked in college as the head coach at Southern Miss from 2013-15. He worked at Oklahoma State the two years prior as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Before that, he served as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at LSU.

We complied how the leading pass catcher has done in those last three stops. On the low end, his leading receiver finished with 33 catches for 558 yards at Southern Miss in 2013. That team won just a single game.

On the high-end is Justin Blackmon, who caught 121 passes for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2011. He went on to win the Biletnikoff Award which goes to the nation’s top wide receiver and the Cowboys were a last-second field goal from playing for the national championship.

For all the concerns about the Georgia offense next year, it’s safe to say that Pickens’ talents project closer to Blackmon than that of Markese Triplett.

Leading receivers in a Todd Monken offense where he served as a college head coach or OC

Team Player Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards Per catch
Southern Miss 15 Mike Thomas 71 1391 14 19.5915493
Southern Miss 14 Mike Thomas 41 592 7 14.43902439
Southern Miss 13 Markese Triplett 33 558 4 16.90909091
Ok. State 12 Josh Stewart 101 1210 7 11.98019802
Ok. State 11 Justin Blackmon 121 1522 18 12.5785124
LSU 06 Dwayne Bowe 65 990 12 15.23076923
LSU 05 Dwayne Bowe 41 710 9 17.31707317

Even if Pickens merely as an average season under Monken compared to those seven listed about, he’ll still be in rarefied air among Georgia’s all-time leading receivers.

The average season for a leading receiver in a Todd Monken offense at the college level sees him catching 67.5 passes. In a Georgia uniform, only Brice Hunter in 1993 had more in a season. The touchdown total is 10.14. Terrence Edwards in 2002 is the only one to eclipse that.

Edwards in 2002 is also the only time a Georgia player topped 1,000 receiving yards in a season. The average leading receiver in a Monken offense finished with 996.14 yards.

Maybe this is why Edwards seemed to hint that he could be getting some company in the Georgia record books.

Average season of the leading wide receiver in a Todd Monken offense

Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards per catch
67.57142857 996.1428571 10.14285714 15.43517392

Pickens, as he said, will have to do some growing. He’ll have to become accustomed to being double-teamed and the focus of the opposing team’s gameplan. Former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda told DawgNation’s Mike Griffith that LSU was saving special coverages for when Pickens entered the game.

That’s probably going to be a weekly occurrence next season. It also might not matter if Monken is able to mesh his concepts with Pickens’ special athletic gifts. As Pickens did more than a handful of times this past season, there are times where he even when he’s covered, Pickens is still going to be able to twist and contort his body to make some spectacular catches.

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