Arik Gilbert’s roller-coaster offseason could circle back to Georgia

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The on-again, off-again speculation of former LSU star Arik Gilbert’s potential future at Georgia was on again Saturday night.

The Bulldogs’ players taking part in voluntary offseason conditioning are expected to meet on Tuesday and begin workouts on Thursday. Summer classes start on June 11.

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Sources told DawgNation Saturday night that Gilbert, a 6-foot-5, 253-pound pass-catching target who can line up at tight end or at receiver, is leaning toward being on the UGA campus this week.

Rivals.com was the first to report that Georgia, along with Tennessee, might be in play for the services of the former Marietta star tight end this offseason.

There are, however, questions surrounding Gilbert’s eligibility after he left LSU with the team 3-5 at the start of December. Gilbert then announced plans to enter the transfer portal on Jan. 2, per a 247Sports report.

There was immediate speculation that Gilbert would end up back in Georgia playing for the Bulldogs because the reason given for his transfer from LSU was homesickness.

Georgia was indeed among the schools recruiting Gilbert, and the Bulldogs were considered a good fit with their offensive scheme.

RELATED: How Arik Gilbert fits into the Georgia offense

“You can never have enough good tight ends in the SEC, because they are big, they are athletic, and they can catch the ball,” Smart said after a 49-14 win over Missouri last season, when tight end Darnell Washington had two catches for 61 yards and was targeted four times.

“There are so many things they can do, it’s one of those things we want as many as we can get, and we want to get the ball.”

The “Ace” formation, the double tight end look, is popular in the NFL because it’s difficult for defenses to match up with.

Smart hired former Tampa Bay coordinator Todd Monken, who orchestrated an offense that led the NFL in passing in 2018.

The results took hold with JT Daniels under center at quarterback and players becoming familiar with the scheme.

“Coach (Todd) Monken really likes using multiple tight end sets, it is done a lot in the NFL,” Smart said. " You can mismatch people and have the ability to run the ball, and then also flex them out and throw the ball. It’s really frustrating (to defend).”

Florida, however, also had big success at the tight end position with eventual Top-5, 2021 NFL Draft pick Kyle Pitts.

Pitts made public comments to Gilbert via social media that led many to believe the Gators were recruiting him, and on Jan. 31, Gilbert committed to the Gators.

Four weeks later, however, Gilbert decommitted from Florida and was back in the NCAA transfer portal.

In April, reports surfaced that Gilbert might return to LSU to play football this season after meeting with coach Ed Orgeron.

“Everybody was happy to see him,” LSU coach Ed Oregon said, per a Lafayette Daily Advertiser story. “We checked with compliance to make sure that everything that we were doing was on the up and up. We could meet him. He could come talk to us. He left. He hasn’t made a decision yet. He hasn’t told us anything yet.

“I think it’s still up in the air, but it was a very positive day when he came in.”

LSU started to get the feeling that Gilbert might not be returning to the SEC’s version of Death Valley, after all, per a Zach Ragan report.

And now, with players less than 48 hours from moving in on campus, there’s speculation Gilbert might open the season against a team that plays in the ACC’s version of Death Valley — Clemson — as a member of Georgia’s football program.

The new NCAA rule allowing for a one-time transfer has led to many comings and goings, and the SEC is expected to vote to change its rule this week and allow for transfers to be eligible within the league immediately.

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