Athens — If nothing else, George Pickens is remorseful.
At least that’s the word from his Georgia teammates. According to quarterback Jake Fromm, the volatile wide receiver apologized to the team on Sunday for his actions in the Georgia Tech game. Pickens was ejected for fighting in the third quarter, a penalty that carries with it a one-half suspension in the next game.
As a result, the No. 4 Bulldogs’ leading receiver will miss the first half of Saturday’s SEC Championship game against No. 2 LSU.
“I think he has responded well,” Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm said of Pickens during an SEC teleconference call with reporters. “There was a moment (Sunday) where he apologized for his actions. You can definitely see him growing up an trying to realize that his actions affect more than just him. They affect the entire team.”
Pickens, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound freshman from Hoover, Ala., was also suspended for the first half of the Tech game for undisclosed violations of team rules. He has been flagged two other times this season for personal fouls.
Pickens had a reputation for a being hot-headed when he signed with the Bulldogs as a 5-star prospect in Georgia’s 2019 class. While he has lived up to that reputation, he has also proven to be as good as advertised as a receiver.
Heading into Saturday’s game, he leads the Bulldogs with 33 catches for 498 yards and six touchdowns. And while he played only a half-quarter against the Yellow Jackets, that was enough time for him to catch a 41-yard touchdown pass.
The key for Pickens is not letting opposing defensive backs provoke him, which clearly they’re going to try to do from now on. Senior wideout Tyler Simmons said the Georgia’s receivers and position coach Cortez Hankton have talked extensively with Pickens about that since Saturday’s game.
“We’ve had a chance to sit down and talk with him about it and I think he sincerely knows what he did wrong and knows how to improve from it,” Simmons said. “He can definitely make a difference. I know personally Jake is very close with George and they have great timing. Maybe he can give us a little spark in the second half.”
Pickens was ejected after he and Tech defensive back Tre Swilling began pushing and shoving each other as Pickens blocked him on a touchdown-scoring play to Dominick Blaylock. While both players appeared to swing punches during the melee, Pickens ended up slinging Swilling into a wall behind the end zone, which proved to be the disqualifying action.
Coach Kirby Smart chastised Pickens after the game, but also said it’s the team’s intentions to help Pickens learn to control his temper while remaining passionate and competitively engaged on the football field.
UGA's players are following that lead.
“We’re excited for the next step moving forward,” Fromm said. “But it is what it is. We’re going to have to go out and play without him for the first half.”
Georgia already is having to play without its No. 1 receiver this season, Lawrence Cager. The graduate transfer from Miami fractured his ankle in practice last week and is out for the year.
Simmons counts himself among several players eager to step up in the meantime. He had three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown against the Jackets, while redshirt sophomore Matt Landers had a 26-yard catch, Dominick Blaylock had two for 29 and a score and Demetris Robertson had two for 22.
“Kearis (Jackson) had a great fall camp but broke his hand,” Simmons said. “I’m looking for him to step up this week, Matt to step up. Those are just some of the guys who can step up for us.”
As for Pickens, Simmons said: “We just don’t need George doing that anymore because obviously it hurts the team.”