ATHENS — Georgia football took a hit when George Pickens, the team’s leading returning receiver, suffered a torn ACL in practice on Tuesday.
Next to quarterback JT Daniels, it’s not a stretch to say Pickens was the most valuable player on the team.
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Georgia coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs plan to take an aggressive tack on offense this season with a seasoned gunslinger like Daniels at quarterback and second-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken at the controls.
Pickens’ injury, while a significant blow, should not alter Georgia’s plans to utilize an Air Raid attack and utilize Daniels’ abilities to manage the offense from the line of scrimmage and make accurate throws at each level of the defense.
Smart said earlier this spring that second-year receiver Jermaine Burton was in the process of learning multiple receiver positions, and he was doing so for reasons such as this.
Burton will likely slide into the role of “X” as the team’s primary receiver, and second-year receiver Arian Smith becomes the most logical choice to move to the Z, where Burton played previously.
Burton enjoyed a breakout performance in Daniels’ first start last season against Mississippi State, catching 8 passes for 197 yards. He had 27 catches for 404 yards last season.
Georgia has third-year receiver Dominick Blaylock returning from the knee injury he suffered last season. Blaylock is a reliable target with go-to potential once up to speed.
Pickens’ injury — and the accordion-like effect it will have on the receiving corps — also opens a window for fifth-year senior Demetris Robertson.
Robertson has worked hard to fulfill the promise his 5-star recruiting rank and Freshman All-American season at Cal brought when he transferred to UGA, but he has yet to produce the sort of results that would suggest an NFL career is in his future.
Veteran Kearis Jackson gives Georgia a reliable slot target, and tailback James Cook routinely works with the receivers and provides another explosive and capable target. Second-year receiver Ladd McConkey has also made progress in the slot.
Freshmen Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (6-2, 195) and Justin Robinson (6-4, 220) are big targets whose roles are also growing.
Rosemy-Jacksaint suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Florida last season, while Robinson has recovered from a hand injury and shoulder injury.