The Georgia position group with the most questions heading into the 2019 season was also the unit that shone brightest in the team’s most complete performance of the year so far.
The Bulldog receivers turned in an outstanding performance on Saturday. They caught a pair of touchdowns and fared well in the passing game, and they also had key blocks on the outside to spring big plays in what ended up being a 55-0 victory over Arkansas State.
“I’m proud of them for all the words and the criticism that was out there for them, or concern I should say, that was out there for them,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said after the game. “I think they’ve responded well to that.”
Georgia’s top receivers were a pair of freshmen who continue to make a name for themselves in the Bulldog offense.
Dominick Blaylock led the way with 112 yards on four catches, including a 60-yard catch and run for a touchdown down the sideline. Right behind him was freshman George Pickens with five catches for 84 yards.
Blaylock has gone from not playing in the season opener against Vanderbilt to a huge performance against Arkansas State in just two weeks. Smart said he’s getting more opportunities, particularly in the wake of Kearis Jackson fracturing his hand in the season opener.
As for Pickens, Smart said the coaching staff has become more comfortable with how he’ll respond to game action and as a result is looking for more ways to involve him. However, that doesn’t mean the freshman has no room to improve.
“He had several things today that he didn’t do right, he didn’t do well,” Smart said. “I know the consensus will be he had catches, he had wows, he had this. But when he didn’t have the ball or the ball’s not thrown to him, a lot of those were because he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do.”
Even with the room to grow, there’s no denying these two freshmen bring a big-play element to Georgia’s offense. Blaylock averaged 28 yards per catch while Pickens came in at just under 17 yards per reception.
That’s something that was an unknown when it came to Georgia’s offense this season. If the freshmen can continue to develop this way, the Bulldogs will become even more of a force to be reckoned with offensively.
“As long as they’re on the same page, those guys are starting to kind of get to that unstoppable level,” said quarterback Jake Fromm. “Hopefully they can keep getting better.”
Blaylock and Pickens weren’t the only newcomers to show out on Saturday.
Graduate transfer Lawrence Cager hauled in his first Georgia touchdown, part of a three catch, 16 yard effort. But his biggest contribution came by blocking.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Cager had a pair of blocks that allowed plays to turn into touchdowns. The first sprung Blaylock down the sideline after catching a short pass from Fromm, and the second came on an end-around to James Cook where Cager blocked his player into the end zone and held him there while Cook scampered to paydirt.
“Playing in a lot of games, you realize that it can help the team out,” Cager said. “It’s not a selfish act, you help the team out playing team ball.”
When asked how his teammates might repay him, Cager laughed.
“I hope they buy me dinner, I’m hungry,” Cager said. “It’s a thank you. I told them, ‘I got your back no matter what.’”
When he transferred to Georgia from Miami, Cager said blocking was one of the biggest things emphasized to him by Smart and offensive coordinator James Coley. He and the rest of the receiving corps has bought in, and the results are starting to show on the field and in practice. Just ask cornerback Eric Stokes.
“I’ve done got yelled at multiple times for Cager blocking me, Stokes not getting off a block,” Stokes said.
Between Cager’s blocking and the highlight show put on by Pickens and Blaylock, the Georgia receivers showed the wide potential this group has. With Notre Dame looming and SEC play coming after that, it’s something the unit wants to continue to showcase.
“We’ve got to come out with the same fire we had today,” Cager said. “We’re out to prove a point every game.”