‘More probable than doubtful’ George Pickens returns for Georgia, per ESPN analyst

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Georgia football receiver George Pickens might still play in 2021 once his knee rehab is complete.

ATHENS — SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic left Sanford Stadium optimistic star receiver George Pickens will play next season.

“I would say right now it’s more probable than doubtful that we see him play in regular-season games this year,” said Cubelic, who as a sideline reporter has seen his share of knee injuries and experienced a torn ACL himself when he was a player at Auburn.

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The Bulldogs completed their spring football session with the annual G-Day Scrimmage on Saturday, showing bits and pieces of a refined offense featuring JT Daniels at quarterback.

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Daniels impressed, even with many top receivers shelved. In addition to Pickens, receivers Jermaine Burton (hyperextended knee), Dominick Blaylock (knee), Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (ankle) and Justin Robinson (knee) sat out the game.

All, except Pickens, are expected back for the Sept. 4 opening game with Clemson.

Cubelic, who worked the sideline during the SEC Network telecast of G-Day, explained why he’s confident Pickens will return.

“That’s such a common injury in sports today that as long as things heal on track, and from what I heard he didn’t have any other damage to the knee, it was pretty much a clean ACL tear, which I’ve had,” Cubelic said.

“You can do a lot of the conditioning before you get back to compete, your body can be ready once that thing gets healed up, so there are ways to make that happen.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said shortly after news broke of Pickens’ torn ACL that there was a chance Pickens could be back, but it would be completely in the hands of the medical staff.

RELATED: Kirby Smart elaborates on George Pickens’ knee

“Obviously, I think there’s a chance he’s back in ’21,” Smart said. “We’ve had kids that have ACL injuries, I liken it to Divaad (Wilson). Divadd got his (ACL injury) when he first got here on the third day of spring practice.

“I think he was cleared to go somewhere around Florida week (end of October).”

The Pickens family has indicated their best hopes would be a return in November, and Cubelic indicated the same.

“Let’s just say he comes back I think it’s Tennessee (Nov. 13), Charleston Southern (Nov. 20), Georgia Tech (Nov. 27),” Cubelic said. “What if he went 10-to-12 plays, then 15-to-20 plays, and 25-to-30 plays, and all the sudden he’s ready for the postseason. Conditioning-wise, comfort level, all of that.

“There’s not a bunch of film on him in this offense. Not enough to truly get a look at his tendencies, so you add that to an offense that’s already pretty good for the home stretch, that could be really dangerous, and maybe even work out more advantageous than if you had him the whole year.”

Cubelic visited with offensive coordinator Todd Monken and JT Daniels in addition to Smart while on assignment covering the G-Day Game.

Cubelic, who hosts a daily radio show in Pickens’ hometown of Birmingham, even considered one scenario where UGA ends up ultimately stronger because of how much more balanced the offense will be without Pickens on the field.

“It could end up being a positive for how JT operates and managed the offense,” Cubelic said. “You look at that schedule, you get past Clemson, even if you don’t (win), you shouldn’t lose another game before the postseason.

“I think they will be fine without him (Pickens). I think they will have other guys that are able to step up, and if you could add him for that home stretch, that last third of the season and into the postseason, that could be something wild to watch.”

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