Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) dives to make a catch during the first half of Georgia’s home opener against Murray State University in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 7, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. At the end of the half, the Bulldogs led the Racers 42-7. (Photo/Ryan Cameron, rcameron@randb.com)

It seemed like it was only a matter of time before George Pickens would have his breakthrough. 

Buzz around the freshman wide receiver was deafening throughout the offseason. A video of his impressive one-handed catch from Georgia’s scrimmage on Aug. 10 gained traction online, and teammates — such as junior safety Richard LeCounte and senior defensive end David Marshall — have drawn comparisons between Pickens and former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.

Pickens’ diving 43-yard catch against Murray State proved all of the preseason excitement may have been justified after all. 

“The heart he has for the game, the passion, the athletic ability, it’s crazy,” junior linebacker Nate McBride said. “Seeing him make that catch, that was crazy, but he’s worked for that. He’s put in the time.” 

After failing to record a catch against Vanderbilt on Aug. 31, Pickens led all Georgia receivers against the Racers, tallying 78 yards on four receptions and a touchdown. 

Other than his offensive production, Pickens also threw a critical block that allowed junior running back D’Andre Swift to break free on a 40-yard run. Head coach Kirby Smart praised Pickens’ flexibility. 

“What I have enjoyed is his willingness to block and to grow as a blocker,” Smart said. “He’s out of control on a lot of blocks. He thinks every block, he is going to be able to go knock them out. He’s got to learn that they see him coming. He’s not invisible.” 

When Pickens signed with the Bulldogs on Feb. 6, Georgia landed its first commitment from a five-star wide receiver in the Kirby Smart era. The Hoover, Alabama, native was the class of 2019’s No. 4 wide receiver, according to the 247Sports Composite. 

“He’s out there doing some crazy stuff,” sophomore offensive lineman Cade Mays said. “[He is] always making plays on the ball. That’s something he does a really good job of — going and finding the ball and coming down with it.” 

But Pickens provides more than talent to the Bulldogs’ offense. Sophomore center Trey Hill called Pickens’ energy “intense.” McBride said Pickens practices with a competitive edge. 

“He’s a little bunny rabbit,” junior running back Prather Hudson said. “He’s always running around at practice … Every time, he’s going for that ball like it’s a game rep. That’s what I like about him.” 

Pickens is still reining in his emotions on the field. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Pickens cost the Bulldogs 15 yards against Murray State, but veteran teammates are guiding the true freshman through growing pains. Smart said Swift was one of the first people to connect with Pickens after the penalty. 

“[Pickens] just needs to control his emotions,” Smart said. “I love the kid, and he plays with energy, but he needs to play within the realm of the discipline of our program. He’s got a lot of talent. I’m excited for his future.” 

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