One of the best pass-catchers in the 2020 recruiting cycle appears to be on the move, as LSU tight end Arik Gilbert has entered the transfer portal.
Gilbert made the announcement on Saturday via his Twitter.
I’d like to announce that I’m verbally entering the transfer portal. I’d like to think god for all the blessings he bestows upon me.
— AG2 (@arik_gilbert) January 2, 2021
Gilbert was a 5-star recruit in the 2020 class, as he was the No. 6 overall player and the highest-rated player in the state of Georgia. Gilbert also holds the distinction of being the top-rated tight end in the history of recruiting rankings.
The freshman tight end had previously opted-out of the 2020 season according to LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
“Arik and I had a good conversation yesterday. He told me he was opting out,” Orgeron said on the SEC coaches teleconference call in December. “He said his body was hurting and he had some things he had to take care of.”
News broke in December that Gilbert was considering making a move. In a radio interview, Orgeron acknowledged that Gilbert was homesick.
Gilbert is originally from Marietta, Ga., and was one of the most productive players in recent memory. He led Marietta High School to a state championship in his senior season and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year.
Georgia was very much involved in his recruitment process as Gilbert visited Athens multiple times during the recruiting process. Other suitors for Gilbert’s services were Alabama, Tennessee and Clemson. The Bulldogs signed fellow 5-star tight end Darnell Washington in the 2020 class. Washington finished the season with seven catches for 166 yards. The Bulldogs also signed 4-star 2021 tight end Brock Bowers. He will enroll early at Georgia.
Gilbert detailed why he did not end up picking Georgia the first time around.
“I think that Georgia really did a great job of recruiting me honestly,” Gilbert said in October of 2019. “I just didn’t feel it.”
In his freshman season at LSU, Gilbert caught 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns, delivering on some of the hype surrounding him.
Those who know Gilbert well, such as former Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards — who trained Gilbert — rave about his potential and ceiling.
“I think he is whatever he wants to be,” Edwards said. “He can play the receiver position or he’ll just be a big tight end. But I think he will be listed from his college days to then if God blesses him to play in the NFL as a tight end. These days that’s not a bad thing. Because if you look at Travis Kelce and all the tight ends in the NFL right now I think they are big receivers who just happened to be a tight end’s size. They are listed at tight end. I think he will be a tight end who can split out wide and play receiver.”
Entering the transfer portal does not mean that a player has left, but it does allow teams to communicate with players who have put their name in the portal. The NCAA is also expected to pass legislation in early 2021 that would allow for a one-time transfer to not have to sit out when arriving at a new school.
The SEC had a policy in place where if you transfer within the conference, which Gilbert would be doing if the were to end up at Alabama, Georgia or Tennessee, you would have to sit out a season. But that policy was waived for the 2020 season, allowing the likes of Cade Mays and Otis Reese to play this year.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked about what he thought about the rule and the Georgia head coach did not hold back.
“It’s a really tough situation because I don’t say that from the guys that left here—it’s not about that for me,” Smart said. “It’s about what’s best for our conference, what’s best for our programs, what’s best for the game of football, and what’s best for the kids. That’s why you guys like to talk about it because there’s no perfect or right answer.”
Georgia has already seen three players enter the transfer portal in recent weeks, as outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson, quarterback D’Wan Mathis and receivers Trey Blount and Makiya Tongue have all done so.
Smart gave an update prior to the Peach Bowl on how he views the transfer portal.
“It’s a need base for us,” Smart said. “If I had my preference, I would rather not use the portal because schools like Cincinnati and Georgia shouldn’t have to, you should be able to go out and recruit the right kind of guys.”
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