National Signing Day seemed like it would be a semi-quiet one as Georgia already signed most of its recruiting class in December. That was until, well, head coach Kirby Smart showed off his recruiting prowess once more.
He flipped another prospect, and it was another big one. Five-star wide receiver George Pickens, a former Auburn commit out of Hoover (Ala.) High School, changed his pledge to the Bulldogs late Wednesday morning. He signed his national letter-of-intent as of an official announcement at 11:24 a.m.
Pickens is the top-rated player out of the state of Alabama, and flashed at a 7A Alabama powerhouse preps program. He ranks as the fourth-best wide receiver nationally after a senior season of 1,387 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
Pickens originally committed to Auburn on July 21, 2017, over six months before Georgia extended its scholarship offer. At the time, the Bulldogs had solid commitments from five-stars Dominick Blaylock and Jadon Haselwood. Blaylock stayed true to his choice and signed with the program while Haselwood extended the dramatics and signed with Oklahoma after a nationally-televised announcement in January.
So, yes, Pickens was seemingly a lock to remain in his home state, and that seemed ever-apparent when the five-star’s final trip before the recruiting dead period was to drop by and see Tigers’ head coach Gus Malzahn. But Georgia got multiple visits as well, and made its move with Smart and wide receivers’ coach Cortez Hankton.
“The recruiting process was very hard,” Pickens said in a ceremony at Hoover. “I will be attending the University of Georgia.”
In previous years, Alabama’s top prospects have ended up at either of the in-state schools and the top-two do so on nearly every occasion. Georgia stopped that trend, however, with this cycle as it signed Pickens (top-ranked in Alabama) and five-star offensive guard Clay Webb (No. 2 prospect). It marks the first time since 2003 that each of the state’s top-two recruits left Alabama since wide receiver Chad Jackson (Florida) and quarterback JaMarcus Russell (LSU) did so, according to the 247Sports.com state rankings. Justyn Ross (Clemson) and Jameis Winston (Florida State) have been the only others in the top-two to do so since 2003 on separate occasions.
Georgia has figured out its mastery of the state of Alabama for a recruiting cycle, but what does it mean for the Bulldogs?
It gives the program another five-star prospect, which matters in some regard more than others. Georgia’s load of six five-star signees or enrollees gives it another statistic for Smart to boast for the 2020 class, and gives the incoming group a surge of confidence with its talent base. Georgia’s class remains second-ranked nationally, but some indicators could make it Smart’s best effort to date.
More importantly than the numbers, it adds another highly-touted asset to Hankton’s wide receiver unit. After the dominoes fell with receivers declaring early for the NFL draft, the group was getting thinner and Smart indicated a wideout as a need entering the February signing period. Pickens patches the loss of Haselwood and brings the Bulldogs the needed piece.
Georgia’s receiver room will feature Demetris Robertson, Jeremiah Holloman, Tyler Simmons, Tommy Bush, Blaylock and others with coveted recruiting labels who could be influential in the 2019 season.