Arik Gilbert has made his college decision. He’s going to play in the Southeastern Conference. The 5-star TE will do so for a program that has not yet made a habit of showing up in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta in December.
That means it wasn’t Alabama. Or Georgia.
Gilbert chose LSU on Wednesday in an announcement that shocked most of the recruiting industry even when he was trending away from the in-state Bulldogs.
He’ll still be leaving the state to play college football. Just farther out in the SEC West.
“LSU was just the school that I saw myself at,” he said on Wednesday night. “That place just felt right. It felt different than all of the others.”
The nation’s No. 1 TE out of Marietta High in Metro Atlanta shared his decision from a ceremony streamed live not too far away from the home of that title game. Gilbert chose the Tigers a ceremony that took place from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. That was a big get for LSU in their 2020 class.
He becomes their third prospect with a 5-star rating on the LSU board for 2020.
The 5-star prospect made the decision after taking an official visit to check out the Tigers earlier this year against Florida. He was there for that big win.
Ed Orgeron’s program came into the state of Georgia and plucked a real gem. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end picked up his Georgia offer in the summer before the ninth grade.
Gilbert and his family gave the Bulldogs the final official visit before he made his decision known on Wednesday. It was a decision so closely guarded that his mother, Akiba, had no idea of his decision prior to his commitment announcement on Wednesday.
The senior ranks as the nation’s No. 1 TE prospect and the No. 10 overall prospect in the nation this year on the 247Sports Composite ratings.
The decision means that the Bulldogs have missed out on the state’s top two targets for the 2020 class. Hillgrove High (Powder Springs, Ga.) 5-star DE Myles Murphy, the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect, also chose Clemson earlier this year.
When he made his decision, no one knew. Especially not the coaches at LSU. Gilbert told no one. He also made it much tougher for coaches and recruiters to contact him over the last few weeks. Why?
He has been without his cell phone. Gilbert chose not to replace it.
“I knew nobody was going to know,” he said.
Arik Gilbert: What the Tigers are getting in the 5-star
Gilbert is well-known across the state of Georgia. He plans to enroll early at LSU in January of 2020.
He’s been a highly-productive player for Hustle, Inc. 7-on-7 coach and organizer Tony Ballard for the last few springs.
“I think somebody is going to get the biggest competitor they have ever seen,” Ballard said. “That kid wants to contribute. That kid wants to play. He’s going to find a way to get on somebody’s field. I think he’s probably the biggest competitor that I’ve ever been around. He just wants to succeed. No matter what. He’s going to give you everything he’s got.”
“The one thing about Arik that I like is he’s not afraid of challenges. He’s not afraid to compete. I’d say that’s the biggest thing. They are going to get a kid who is going to give them everything that he is got. He’s going to compete every day. … He’s going to get on the field his first year as a freshman where he can absolutely contribute to that university.”
Is he a tight end that runs routes like a receiver? Or a pure receiver that looks like a tight end?
Ballard has his take on that.
“I think that Arik is going to show up on somebody’s school and they are going to treat him as an athlete,” Ballard said.
Ballard has trained some of the best quarterbacks and receivers to come out of the state of Georgia over the last few years. He is very well-respected.
So when he calls him a once-in-a-generation or a decade type of prospect, that is not lip service.
“Arik is a receiver that is built like a tight end,” Ballard said. “The reason why I say that is because of what he does on the field on Friday nights but then he did it consistently and also at a high level on 7-on-7. Had he not done that in 7-on-7, I would just say that he’s a tight end that has receiver ability. But he’s a receiver that is built like a tight end.”
Georgia all-time great Terrence Edwards expanded on that.
He’s trained Gilbert for the last few years and feels like his route running and ability to work himself open and create separation as well as the most polished high school receivers anywhere would be what sets him apart.
“He’s going to be what the new age position looks like at tight end,” Edwards said. “I think in the media guide he will be listed as a tight end but in today’s game tight ends are lining up all over the place. They are not just lining up at the end of the line of scrimmage anymore. He’s going to be one of those guys to get moved around to create mismatches.”
Edwards feels Gilbert will not be limited to a tight end or a receiver label.
“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.”