Coming into the season, George Pickens was expected to be Georgia’s leading receiver while Kearis Jackson was just hoping to make a positive impact and answer some of the questions about the wide receiver room.
But through three games, Jackson has been the unquestioned leader of the room as he’s led the Bulldogs in receiving in each of the first three games. And Pickens now is the one who is being questioned.
Jackson hauled in four passes for 91 yards on Saturday. He also scored his first career touchdown, as he hauled in a 21-yard pass from Stetson Bennett IV to give Georgia a 30-21 lead in the third quarter.
“He plays the game hard. He gets open,” Bennett said. “It’s easy to throw him the ball because he catches it. I don’t go looking for him, I don’t really go looking for anybody. I just like to use everybody. He’s open and he catches my eye and I trust him.”
Through three games, Jackson has 19 catches for 300 receiving yards. He had more yards against Tennessee than he did in his entire 2019 season.
Jackson battled injuries for much of that season, as he suffered a broken hand in the opener against Vanderbilt.
Because of the personal setbacks, he’s become accustomed to having to grind for every opportunity.
“I’ve faced adversity all my life. It’s just nothing that’s new to me,” Jackson said. “I just love playing football. Right now I’m playing football. I love being in the locker room, I love my teammates. I just love playing football. I just have to keep building on what I’m doing.”
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) October 11, 2020
The touchdown catch meant a lot to Jackson, as it was the first of his Georgia career. He also told reporters afterward that it was dedicated to a friend of his who had been killed earlier this year.
“God just gave me an opportunity to go out there and make plays and I’m just trying to execute every opportunity I’m given,” Jackson said.
Pickens on the other hand, only seems to be adding adversity for himself to have to overcome. Pickens had just two catches for 14 yards on Saturday. The performance saw his six-game streak with a touchdown snapped, as it was the first time he didn’t score since the Auburn game in 2019.
The most notable play involving Pickens actually came when the Tennessee offense was on the field. In the second quarter of the game, with the score tied at 14, Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was chased out of bounds by the Georgia defense.
With Guarantano on the ground, Pickens walked over and sprayed water into the face of Tennessee quarterback. Naturally, a referee was standing right next to Pickens and the act drew a 15-yard penalty.
My client George Pickens is innocent pic.twitter.com/qJu0a9jc4K
— BUM CHILLUPS AKA SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) October 10, 2020
And after the game, the decision by Pickens drew some strong words from his head coach.
“It’s just disappointing. It’s silly behavior. It’s immature, just like two guys running down to celebrate with Jalen Carter,” Kirby Smart said. “That cost us a Tennessee game already once. What are we thinking? We show that once a year to talk about when you buddy scores, celebrate on the sideline with him.”
Smart is referring to the 2016 Georgia Tennessee game, where a late celebration penalty meant the Volunteers got better field position before a game-ending Hail Mary.
Smart though wasn’t done with Pickens.
“When somebody comes out of bounds and you squirt water at them, what are we doing,” Smart asked. “Are we seven, eight years old? I mean, come on. Let’s play football. Let’s don’t be silly.”
Compared to the poise — and play of Jackson — Pickens had a game to forget against Tennessee.
This isn’t the first time Pickens’ maturity has come into question. Last year against Georgia Tech, Pickens got ejected for fighting. The ejection meant he had to miss the first half of the SEC championship game against LSU.
Contrast Pickens and his play to what Jackson had to say when he’s not getting the ball, you see two very different receivers.
“Even when I’m not getting the ball, just making sure I’m blocking, being physical in the run out on the perimeter because we have great backs in the backfield,” Jackson said. “It means a lot to mean just for when the opportunities come my way to take advantage of them.”
Georgia was always going to need Jackson to play more like Pickens did in 2019, and the Bulldogs were going to need Pickens to act like Jackson.
Through the first three games, Jackson is holding up his end of the Georgia passing offense, even exceeding expectations. The Bulldogs now need Pickens to start acting and playing like the elder Jackson as well.
Kearis Jackson talks about strong performance against Tennessee
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