Kirby Smart-Arik Gilbert-Georgia football
Arik Gilbert did notice how many balls that Georgia’s tight ends caught on G-Day. He even quoted the right number. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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Kirby Smart explains why Georgia football brought in Arik Gilbert

HOOVER, Ala. — The most popular Georgia player on Tuesday was not quarterback JT Daniels or defensive lineman Jordan Davis.

That would be wide receiver Arik Gilbert.

“I’ve been asked more about Arik more than anything else today,” Daniels told reporters on Tuesday.

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Yes, wide receiver. Even with Gilbert being the highest-rated tight end prospect in the history of the 247Sports Composite rankings, Gilbert has the ability and talents to play wide receiver.

When you consider this was the first opportunity Daniels and head coach Kirby Smart had to talk about the wide receiver transfer from LSU, it’s easy to see why there were so many questions about Gilbert.

“He’s a playmaker, he’s a guy who you need to get the ball in his hands,” Smart said. “We’ve got to find out if he can sustain, if he’s got the stamina at that position to play that position, to play the X, to play the Z, play the slot. We’ll find ways to move him around.

As a freshman at LSU, Gilbert hauled in 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He did that in eight games for the Tigers, before opting out of the 2020 season. He later entered the transfer portal and finally ended up on Georgia’s roster in June.

Even though he’s no longer a Tiger, his former head coach still thinks that Gilbert possesses an incredibly high ceiling.

“We wish him the best. He’s an outstanding young man,” Ed Orgeron said. “Mama is a great lady. I think he’s going to be an All-Pro tight end, All-American has a chance to be a first-round draft choice.”

Smart very firmly believes in using the transfer portal only to fill needs. So what need does Gilbert fill? The Bulldogs have a very strong group of tight ends and a number of young wide receivers ready to make a leap.

“With Arik, anytime you can get a skill player that can do things with the ball, you’re always looking to be dynamic,” Smart said. “You look at teams that have won the national championship recently, they’re most dynamic on offense and at the skill positions.”

Related: JT Daniels comfortable with championship expectations for Georgia football

Georgia lost star wide receiver George Pickens for the foreseeable future when he suffered an ACL injury in March. It’s still unknown when or if he might be able to play this season. Smart did reveal that Pickens was running in a straight line, but that is a long way from being ready to play football.

That injury helps explain why Georgia added Gilbert. He’s got a chance to have an immediate role on this team. He’s yet to take part in an official Georgia practice for the Bulldogs but his work ethic has impressed Daniels early on.

“Most impressive thing with him for me is how much he loves football. How much time he puts into it. It is impressive,” Daniels said. “There’s a lot of guys with great talent that like football. He’s a guy with great talent that loves football and it’s awesome to see.”

Gilbert is likely to line up at the X position in Georgia’s offense, where he’ll compete with Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Justin Robinson and potentially Pickens for playing time. Rosemy-Jacksaint saw his freshman season end with a broken ankle against Florida. Robinson meanwhile has yet to record a catch for the Bulldogs.

Related: Kirby Smart updates Kearis Jackson surgery, Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens’ recoveries

The Bulldogs do bring back the likes of Jermaine Burton, Arian Smith, Kearis Jackson and the similarly mammoth Darnell Washington. Add in Georgia’s loaded running back room and the Bulldogs are not lacking for talent at its skill positions.

Daniels knows he’ll have to spread the ball around to a number of Georgia playmakers. Gilbert is certainly one of those and has the potential to be a real problem for opposing defenses if Georgia commits to using him properly.

“The only problem is there is only one ball,” Daniels said. “It’s not just that Arik is just another guy, he’s very special. But a lot of guys are very special. It’s a great problem to have.”

Day 2 SEC Media Days recap