Georgia wide receiver George Pickens and tight end John Fitzpatrick spoke to the media virtually following Friday’s practice. Pickens and Fitzpatrick provided insight into their strength and speed improvements, excitement for the Sept. 26 season opener against Arkansas and outlook among the quarterbacks.
An offseason emphasis on strength and speed
Both Pickens and Fitzpatrick gave nearly the same answer on how they’ve improved in the offseason. Georgia prioritized weight gain and speed improvements for its skill positions, with strength and conditioning director Scott Sinclair leading the charge.
“Coach Sinclair has helped me a ton. On scout team, my redshirt year [and] last year [to] just kept working in the weight room,” Fitzpatrick said. “I feel strong. I have gained more weight. I feel fast, so I am excited to play.”
Pickens was among the nation’s most sure-handed receivers last season, so adding weight was a natural choice to develop his game further. Pickens was one of 11 receivers in the country last year who saw more than 25 catchable passes and did not record a drop, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I definitely put on a little more weight,” Pickens said. “Of course, last year, I was a freshman coming out of high school, but now that the weight program has picked up, it is really getting me bigger as a player. I am much faster and much bigger this year.”
Physicality is a big part of Pickens’ game, and this year he wants to stay ahead of the curve with his strength while improving his separation with speed.
As Georgia’s number one target this season, Pickens’ work this offseason will likely see him eclipse the 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns he had last year.
Mindset heading into season opener
The preparation Georgia has gone through to prepare for its Sept. 26 season opener at Arkansas has Fitzpatrick convinced the Bulldogs are ready. The thoughts of rust or cancellation are not on the players’ minds, and the feeling is best described as just plain old excitement.
“There is no holding back,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are ready. We have had plenty of time. We had minicamp where everyone got together. We know the system. We know our goals as an offense, and when we moved onto camp, we kept working. Now it is coming up, and we are excited to put on some pads and play.”
After practicing against Georgia’s defense all summer, Fitzpatrick said the Bulldogs are ready to get to Arkansas and challenge another team. Playing against the same defense in practice every day can elevate complacency, which head coach Kirby Smart said was a concern after a Sept. 5 scrimmage.
Fitzpatrick thinks Georgia’s mindset and response to the long offseason of uncertainty and preparation for the season are critical.
“I think it depends on how you and your teammates respond to it,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can take it as not knowing what is going to happen, or you can prepare every day like it is a game day and go to work with the right mindset.”
Pickens’ outlook on quarterback competition
Once Jamie Newman opted, Georgia began searching for its next starting quarterback out of a group consisting of redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis, redshirt sophomore JT Daniels and freshman Carson Beck.
Pickens said the quarterback position’s uncertainty has not necessarily affected him or the other Georgia receivers in practice. He thinks the competition is an exciting watch.
“I kind of like when the quarterbacks are competing because I love competing,” Pickens said. “When I see them working every day, and I am throwing with different quarterbacks, it just shows me that each guy is working to get better. Each ball might be different, but as long as you know they are working and you are working, you are going to catch the ball.”