Kirby Smart praises offseason progression of George Pickens, discusses what Jamie Newman adds to UGA program
The biggest question in Athens heading into the 2020 college football season is the state of the offense under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
While all indications point toward Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman being the quarterback that takes over for Jake Fromm this season, the transfer addition of JT Daniels’ from USC — who is currently waiting to find out if he’ll be eligible immediately at Georgia — may complicate the quarterback competition in Athens.
Either way, Kirby Smart likes what he’s seen from Newman up to this point as the Georgia coach recently discussed the quarterback most expect to start for the Bulldogs come Sept. 7 in the opener against Virginia.
“We’re excited. Jamie’s been a great addition to our program,” Smart said during a recent appearance on the ESPN College Football Podcast. “We didn’t really get to see him through the spring, because we didn’t get the spring practice, but we got to see him some in spring workouts. The first thing that pops out at you is his leadership ability, you know?
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“He came into a situation where you know he didn’t know a lot of guys on the team but that hasn’t hindered his ability to lead. He’s graduated from Wake [Forest]. Number one, he’s physically well put together, he’s mentally well put together and he’s got the right mindset and he’s approached this thing the right way. That’s not to say that, you know, you’re gonna have competitors coming in here — D’Wan [Mathis] has done a great, Carson [Beck], Stetson [Bennett], JT [Daniels] if he’s, you know, going to be able to play this year and be eligible, which we don’t know yet.
“All those things are gonna play a factor but I really like where Jamie’s at. We liked what we were able to see last year, what he did at Wake, think he can create a lot of problems for defenses and excited to see him go play.”
If Newman lives up to the hype, Georgia’s offense could prove to be one of the most improved units in the league next season but the quarterback can’t do it all by himself, at least, not in the SEC.
The good news is he won’t have to in Athens as Georgia’s roster is loaded with talent including sophomore receiver George Pickens. During his freshman season in Athens, Pickens caught 49 passes for 727 yards and eight touchdowns.
Based on what Smart had to say on the podcast, look for Pickens production to improve dramatically following an offseason of putting in some serious work.
“This kid loves ball. I mean, he’s as natural a catcher as I’ve ever seen, great hands,” Smart said of Pickens. “Some of the catches he’s made in practice are just off the charts and I get to see it every day. He loves football. He loves football to the point where it’s sometimes it hurts him.
“I mean he’s just so energetic after a catch and he just wants to be excited and he wants to celebrate with his other players and that’s just George. He is young and he’s maturing. He’s physically developed more. That’s probably the biggest difference in him, meaning adding five to seven pounds a little faster. He’s not a high school freshman anymore, I mean a college freshman anymore. He’s stronger.
“And so, I’ve been really impressed with the changes in his body and we didn’t get to see him go out there in the spring, but this guy showed us what he could do last year and we got to do a really good job putting him in different spots for people can’t figure him out and we better get some help. Now you got to have a little help for him and you think you can do to dictate coverage with one guy, but when you get that second guy, in the with the backs we got, that makes me feel much better.”