The news that George Pickens tore his ACL in spring practice is brutal. The former five-star talent is one of the most naturally gifted receivers in all of college football, and Georgia finally has a quarterback who can consistently get him the football.
Instead, Pickens will spend a majority of the upcoming season trying to get back on the field. All hope isn’t lost for a return in 2021, however.
On Thursday, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart used Divaad Wilson as an example. The now former Georgia defensive back tore his ACL back in the spring of 2018, and he was eventually cleared for a return later in the season.
Could something similar be on the horizon for Pickens?
“George will be dearly missed because he’s talented, he works really hard, he makes our whole team better,” Smart said, via Saturday Down South. “I know that’s obvious in terms of what he does offensively, but he makes all the defensive backs better. So when you talk about challenging guys, there’s no greater matchup for a young DB to go against than to go against George. That part we don’t control. But what we do control is how we respond to it, and George knows injuries are part of the game. And we’ll have other guys step up, and I’m very hopeful that George gets well and is able to come back.”
The key quote from Smart came sooner after, though. He noted that the target is Pickens playing in 2021.
“Obviously we think there’s a chance he’s back in ’21,” Smart said. “… He’s got a long career ahead of him.”
If Pickens could find his way back, it could be season-altering news for the Bulldogs. Many expected this team to compete for a national title this season. Despite several losses on defense, it’s still a talented roster. Plus, they finally have the quarterback situation figured out with JT Daniels.
There’s at least some good news, however. The offense still has talented playmakers in the passing game. Game-changers Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton have experience. Dominick Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint will also both be back from season-ending injuries in 2020.
Those last two aren’t just bodies. They’re talented guys who should be able more than capable of holding the Bulldogs over until Pickens can return. Depth becomes a bigger issue without Pickens, but his eventual return could come at the right time.
If Georgia can somehow get past Clemson, the schedule should be fine until mid- to late-October. A trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium to play Auburn could cause some problems, but the top remaining threat will be Florida on Oct. 30. Then it’s the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.
Those dates are only 7-8 months away, so there’s no guarantee that Pickens will be back. But there’s hope, which is always a good thing.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.