Back in March, Georgia Bulldogs star wide receiver George Pickens suffered a torn ACL during practice, ending his 2021 season before it even began. Pickens was set to enter his junior season with the Bulldogs.
Last year, Pickens had 36 receptions for 513 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. During his freshman season, the 6-foot-3 wideout had 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns across 12 games.
On Saturday, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart met with the media after the Bulldogs’ second spring scrimmage. One of the things he addressed was the wide receiver depth without Pickens in 2021.
“The depth has taken a hit obviously with George,” Smart said. “You know Jermaine (Burton) got to do indy (individual drills) today. He’s back running around doing some things. He didn’t scrimmage but he’s doing a lot more and getting more flexibility. Marcus Rosemy is getting close. He’s running around doing walkthroughs, doing conditioning. You see him on the side getting to run you know he’s close to being healthy. Dom (Blaylock) is running so you know you have guys there that have experience and have done a good job.
“It’s really a valuable time for the younger guys, the other guys get an opportunity. Kearis (Jackson) has been very consistent. JRob (Justin Robinson) has made some plays and continued to grow and get better. AD Mitchell has made some plays. Jaylen Johnson has made some plays. Ladd McConkey has made some plays today and has continued to grow. D-Rob had some. I’m fired up. I wish I had all of them because I think that competition would be really good to see who the top guys and the starters are. But a lot of the young guys are catching up to the old guys now really fast with the work they’ve been able to get.”
Georgia’s next-man-up approach shines the spotlight on a pair of particular wide receivers in sophomore Jermaine Burton and junior Kearis Jackson.
“So the immediate roster impact — I think Jake Rowe and Rusty (Mansell), Kipp (Adams) and the guys over at Dawgs247.com, they’ve done a really good job of encapsulating this — I thought to myself immediately when I saw that injury, a couple of names came to mind,” 247Sports’ Josh Pate said. “But the main one was Jermaine Burton, because Jermaine Burton was the guy at times last year — aside from Pickens — who you looked at and said, ‘He’s got that package.’ If you just eyeball him and see the flashes that he shows, he has that complete-package sort of makeup. They’ve been crazy about him ever since he’s been on campus. He’s one of those guys who you look at and say, ‘Boy, when the light comes on. Boy, when things finally click into place.’ And he’s got some time for that to happen. Jermaine Burton’s got to step up. He’s got to have a big, big year now. Kearis Jackson — he’s a veteran now, he’s been there for a while. Kearis Jackson’s a guy you can depend on. Different type of receiver, though. So keep in mind, if we’re looking to fill a slot … left open now, with the loss of George Pickens, you’re probably looking for a certain type.”
As a freshman with the Bulldogs in 2020, Burton recorded 27 receptions for 404 yards (15.0 average) and three touchdowns over 10 games. Jackson, meanwhile, broke out by making 36 catches for 514 yards (14.3 average) and three touchdowns in 10 games. UGA could also take a look at the NCAA transfer portal.
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“Now, I thought Jake Rowe — over on the Dawgs247 board the other day — made a really shrewd observation, shared some intel that I don’t really think is widely known,” Pate said. “And that was — even before the Pickens injury, Georgia coaches were kind of eyeing the transfer portal a little bit, looking for another receiver, maybe a speedier option at receiver. And so, now what does that do to that effort because certainly it doesn’t take away the need for — at least, in their mind — another speedy option at receiver. But now, maybe do you try and leverage the portal for a different kind of receiver or two receivers, three receivers — whatever the case may be.”