Five-star freshman tight end Arik Gilbert joined Coach Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers one season after the team completed a historic run to the national championship. Now, the program appears to be in complete disarray, as the Tigers suffered the third-largest defeat of a reigning national champ ever last Saturday to Alabama and rumblings of potential transfers are everywhere.
Gilbert, the 6’5″, 253-pound superstar, is used to success after capping off his high school career with a state championship at Marietta High School. Now, there are several reports that the five-star is feeling ‘homesick’ in Baton Rouge and interested in leaving the Tigers’ program.
While a decision to enter the portal by Gilbert is not official as of now, the news is more than likely to happen sooner than later.
Let’s assume Orgeron’s efforts to keep Gilbert in Baton Rouge are unsuccessful. Now, here’s where the fun begins.
Where will the five-star land? Let’s dig in..
A team thought to be the favorite in the middle of Gilbert’s high school recruitment, the Bulldogs immediately jump out as a major player in trying to land the LSU tight end yet again. Georgia is hands down the most successful program within the footprint of Gilbert’s hometown of Marietta… and Coach Kirby Smart’s ability to keep doors open for former recruits in the past has proved pivotal time and time again.
As soon as word leaked Gilbert may leave Baton Rouge, the rumblings of a transfer to Georgia began to swirl.
Now, the Bulldogs already have a five-star freshman tight end in Darnell Washington, but pairing the two stars on opposite sides of the offense is a dream for Georgia fans far and wide. Having a proven passing quarterback now in USC transfer JT Daniels and the talents of George Pickens, Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton… adding production from both of these talented tight ends together would have the Dawgs in prime position for a 2021 national championship run.
Not to rule anything out as things certainly change over time… but you might remember that Gilbert’s mother was a big fan of the Bulldogs in the past. Georgia was the first major program to offer the tight end, which kept the Dawgs close in his recruitment. With that being said, inside sources told ATLSPORTSWIRE in the past that Gilbert did not feel a fit in Athens when pondering his recruitment. Gilbert was said to have been fooling the media into thinking Alabama was his leading school, while secretly committing to Coach Orgeron well ahead of announcement time.
And for one last little tidbit of information… the Bulldogs lost the interest of Gilbert long before his final decision, with the tight end merely making one final visit to Athens as a courtesy to the Dawgs.
Now, you must remember that all this happened with a different offensive coordinator in the Classic City, less wide receiver talent and a different quarterback. With Georgia modernizing its offensive outlook, the Bulldogs are likely much more appealing to Gilbert now under Todd Monken’s scheming.
Aside from the obvious scenario of heading to Athens and possibly bringing Marietta teammate BJ Ojulari with him, Gilbert could head to the following teams as well…
The Crimson Tide are not drawing much buzz in the media as a landing spot for Gilbert, but just one year ago, all predictions had the five-star heading to Tuscaloosa. If Coach Nick Saban has a spot for Gilbert, why wouldn’t the Tide be a major player in the sweepstakes for the Marietta star?
Of course, fans of the Tide aren’t all too focused on Gilbert themselves, having won 17 national championships already and sitting in the Catbird’s Seat for another this season.
At Alabama, chasing stars isn’t a thing… If Bama wants you and you want them…then that’s that.
O.J. Howard, Hale Hentges and Irv Smith Jr. all made it in the NFL out of Alabama, so the Tide certainly have that going for them.
Ok, so we’ve covered two of the teams significantly involved in Gilbert’s prior recruitment. How about three surprise landing spots?
While it would be quite the surprise for Gilbert to head down to Gainesville, the five-star doesn’t have to look far to find proven success from an SEC power with tight ends. The Gators have developed Kyle Pitts into a monster over the past two seasons, who coupled with Kyle Trask, has put the team on his back.
If anyone can make a pitch to Gilbert that he’ll make it as an NFL star, it’s the Gators.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… Tennessee has absolutely no offensive production right now and massively underperformed expectations yet again. However, Gilbert’s high school quarterback Harrison Bailey is the future quarterback up in Knoxville and playing time would be a plenty for both players. If Gilbert wants to be THE GUY, he doesn’t have to look far up on Rocky Top either. Juaun Jennings ring a bell, anyone?
Of course, Jennings did not pan into the NFL prospect Gilbert is pegged to be, but the tall wide receiver dominated for the Vols’ while receiving a plethora of targets.
The team with the most talk about Gilbert on the interwebs? Well, it isn’t Georgia. If you look closely, the Jackets have fans fired up about potentially pairing Gilbert with homegrown talent Jahymyr Gibbs next season on The Flats. The two Peach State products with quarterback Jeff Sims would create plenty of buzz.. (pun inended) for Coach Geoff Collins and company… and surely put Tech at the top of discussion for an ACC Coastal title next year.
It may be a longshot for Tech fans to lure a talent like Gilbert, but remember, former NFL superstar Calvin Johnson did once play ball on The Flats. Johnson grew up in the Atlanta metro like Gilbert and has received plenty of comparisons to the five-star tight end.
And lastly, I believe there’s one team no one is talking about that could jump into the Gilbert sweepstakes.
The Gamecocks got a head start on finding their new head coach in Shane Beamer after firing Will Muschamp mid-season. Beamer is a proven tight ends coach with experience at Oklahoma, Georgia and stops along the way across the SEC.
With his experience developing tight ends, the ability to target Gilbert in the passing game and provide the five-star with a spotlight that is closer to home, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Gamecocks sneak into this race. South Carolina has a star in quarterback Gunner Stockton coming in for the Class of 2022 and can recruit more offensive firepower to Columbia.
If there’s a team in the South that can provide a spotlight for Gilbert with an experienced tight end developer and guaranteed playing time as a main target, it’s the Gamecocks.
Of course, Gilbert could wind up at a different school than those I have listed, but my gut tells me these are the teams in play. South Carolina is probably the biggest longshot of the group, but I had to throw them in with the addition of Beamer and ability to feature Gilbert up front for all to see.
So, how about this? I’m going to rank my potential landing spots for Gilbert in order of what I find most likely.
- Georgia Tech
- South Carolina
A case can be made for any of these schools, but with the rumors of Gilbert feeling homesick, one would think he wouldn’t go too far from Marietta this time.
Of course, the Kennesaw State Owls may want to make a phone call to the Gilbert household and remind them they are the closest D1 program to his old high school, while Georgia State could throw in the fact Gilbert already won a championship in its stadium… (insert sarcastic smirking)…