As the result of Pickens’ inability to control his emotions — an issue receivers coach Cortez Hankton has been trying to harness all season — UGA will be without Pickens for the first half of the SEC Championship Game against LSU at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday.
Smart, along with quarterback Jake Fromm, made comments reflecting their awareness that the 18-year-old Pickens needs help maturing.
“We’re going to help George, we’re going to help him grow up,” Smart said. “We’re going to help him make better decisions so he can help our team, but that’s unfortunate.
“Just disappointed. That’s the biggest thing. We don’t want to reflect ourselves that way and he’d be the first to tell you that he lost his composure.”
Fromm, who lost his top five receivers from last season and will now be without his top two receivers in the SEC title game next Saturday, was also supportive.
“That’s tough, not really making the best decisions in the heat of the moment,” Fromm said, asked about Pickens throwing punches and getting kicked out of the game.
“But it is what it is, we’re going to love him, we’re going to take him under our wing, and hopefully make him better.”
The one thing Georgia could not afford was for Pickens to get injured or be out of the lineup with Lawrence Cager undergoing likely season-ending ankle surgery on Friday.
There were signs early on in the game Pickens was not bought into the team and was having trouble accepting his first-half suspension.
Pickens sat away from the receivers through the first quarter and appeared detached when the offense would come to the sideline to huddle during timeouts.
Once in the game, in the third quarter, Pickens shifted into star mode and caught a 41-yard touchdown pass.
But then Georgia Tech’s Tre Swilling landed a shot in Pickens’ throat at the end of a play, and Pickens took the bait and fought back, getting himself ejected and damaging the offense’s chances next Saturday.
Smart was irritated, but he defended Pickens’ character.
“It’s just silly, it’s selfish, it’s undisciplined, it’s, ‘why?’ You ask yourself why?” Smart said. “Why would I give up an opportunity over what we have next week over what? I always ask guys, ‘was it worth it?’ That’s what I always say. ‘Was it worth it?’ It’s not worth it to me when you hurt the team.
“But you live and you grow up and you love them. And look, I love George Pickens. He went to the hospital (visit) with us on Friday and did an unbelievable job. He had as much charisma and as much care for those kids as anybody we had there. George is a great kid. He’s a freshman. I know now because I have my own children, that you have to love them and you have to help them. And you have to discipline your children. They do things wrong, then they get punished.”
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart
Georgia football DawgNation
WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU
How Georgia beat Georgia Tech 52-7