Former Steelers CB takes potshot at Georgia, Kirby Smart over George Pickens

Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Former Steelers cornerback Ryan Clark took a shot at Georgia and Kirby Smart over their use of George Pickens in college.

Did Kirby Smart and Georgia waste George Pickens?

That seems to be what Ryan Clark said Mike Tomlin said about the former Bulldogs wide receiver now that he looks capable of tearing it up in the NFL.

“Coach Tomlin told me something that I thought was great. They didn’t even work to tolerate him and certainly didn’t try to raise him at Georgia. They didn’t embrace who George Pickens is,” Clark said.

Before all that, Clark also said “as an LSU guy talking about another LSU guy” that Pickins is “much more talented than Justin Jefferson.”

Jefferson was a star at LSU, catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Tigers. He was an easy first-round selection for the Vikings.

Meanwhile, Pickins’ best season in college was his first with 49 receptions for 727 yards and eight touchdowns for Georgia in 2019. He never did more than that in a Bulldogs uniform. He topped those numbers as a rookie in the NFL with 52 catches for 801 yards and four touchdowns.

So is it true? Did Georgia fail to unlock the immense talent of the wide receiver who would drop into the Steelers’ lap in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft?

Don’t blame Kirby Smart for George Pickens’ development level at Georgia

Maybe LSU has developed receivers more consistently, but it’s still a stretch to put Pickins’ development on Georgia’s staff.

Pickins lost significant opportunities to develop because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a torn ACL.

After his standout freshman season, Pickens was one yard shy of leading Georgia in receiving despite playing in just eight games in the pandemic-shortened season. Then he suffered that knee injury in the spring of 2021 and only made it back for the last four games of the season.

It should come as no surprise that he wasn’t at full strength in those games, but a 52-yard reception in the national title game against Alabama gave a glimpse of what he could have done during a healthy season.

Pickens is a raw talent because two out of his three seasons in college football were cut short beyond his or Georgia’s control, not because Smart and company failed him in any way.

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