For incoming 5-star recruit George Pickens, the stunning dismissal of UGA’s top receiver a couple of weeks ago didn’t really impact him because there was always the expectation that he would contribute this season.
“We’ll know more when George gets into camp, but I don’t think Georgia would recruit this kid and expect him not to come in and play,” said Josh Niblett, who coached Pickens at Hoover (Ala.) High School.
“I think George is going to have the opportunity to battle for a job this season. I really do. And I think he’ll get in there, and he will battle for a job. That’s what makes George so special – the moment is never too big for him. And the game is never too big for him.
“I would also venture to say that the first day you go out and see practice, George is going to look like a lot of those guys who are already at Georgia.”
Terrence Edwards, who is UGA’s all-time leading receiver, knows a good one when he sees one. He told DawgNation’s Brandon Adams that Pickens is a “a true No. 1 receiver.”
However, to some UGA fans, it may appear that Pickens is a step behind the competition at receiver, simply due to the fact that he did not enroll early with the Bulldogs. Pickens stayed in high school this spring to finish up his academic work, reporting to Georgia at the beginning of the summer. His coach surely doesn’t feel like he’s at any significant disadvantage:
“Man, that guy – he’s never out of shape. He is constantly doing something. I think that’s the thing that makes him so special. He’s always working on his trade, and his craft. He’s not one of those guys who would rather spend time doing something else other than football. That’s just what he loves to do. He has got a dream that he wants to play at the highest level possible, and he’s always working on things to help him go in that direction.”
This past spring at Hoover, Pickens followed his workout instructions sent by UGA. He also trained some with his former high school team. Pickens also performed drills with his older brother, who played defensive back at Arkansas State.
Breaking down George Pickens
While Pickens’ coach readily admits his star pupil can grow and develop in a lot of areas at the collegiate level, what’s already there in the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is pretty dang impressive.
“He can already run, and he’s already a pretty good route runner,” Niblett said. “The thing about it is that Georgia is pretty big on figuring out what maybe George can do a little bit better. But I’m just telling you – I don’t know if I have ever coached anybody like George, as far as having all the skills that he has got.
“Everybody would ask how fast he was? Well, I’ve never seen anyone chase him down from behind. And he’s always gotten over the top (of the coverage) of anybody we’ve ever played. Now everybody asked me how good he was after the catch. I said ‘Look, the guy has a bunch of touchdowns of 20+ yards because people can’t tackle him.’ Then everybody asks about his ball skills. Some of the catches he’s made in practices and games are just astonishing, as far as his ability to track the football.”
Like with most incoming freshmen, the biggest challenge for Pickens will be adapting to the college game. Said Niblett: “When you get to college, everybody is a little bit stronger, a little bit older, a little bit more mature, a little bit faster and smarter. If you can adjust to that part of the game, and be a little bit above where other people would be when they are freshmen … that’s what allows you a chance to get on the field early.”
UGA coach Kirby Smart, who rarely comments on signees before they arrive on campus, is so excited about Pickens that he brought up his name at a press conference during spring practices: “We know George is going to fit what we do. He really was intrigued by the fact that we had the guys come out early, and he knew that he fit in our style system. And we think he’s a talented player that we’re looking forward to working with.”
Hoover is one of the nation’s most prolific high school football programs, winning 11 state championships since 2000 in Alabama’s largest classification. Hoover is also famous for being featured in 2006 in the MTV reality TV series “Two-A-Days.” A lot of elite football players have come through the program, and what really stands out about Pickens, along with his pristine talent, is his work ethic.
“I think that’s what made him so special – not only his level of skill, but he has a great work ethic,” Niblett said. “If you want to be a top receiver and leave a legacy behind … I mean, there’s a lot of guys out there who catch a lot of balls. But when you’re out there competing every day and your work ethic is second to none, I think that is what allows you to be known as one of the best ones to ever play.
“So I think George has nothing but a bright future and high ceiling in front of him. And I think he’ll continue to grow at Georgia.”