Georgia faithful everywhere, I’m sure, had a chuckle when they saw the social media post by Marietta native Arik Gilbert on Sunday announcing his decommitment from the Florida Gators. Dan Mullen’s squad is trying to replace a lot of firepower that has exited their program after the 2020 season. Gilbert would have gone a long way to making up for Kyle Pitts leaving the team for the NFL. Many were caught off guard when the former LSU Tiger announced he would be joining the Gators in the first place. Now the room for speculation opens up all over again as to where Gilbert will end up.
The good news is, Gilbert is not going to be part of the SEC East opponent with the most realistic shot of any in 2021 of beating the Georgia Bulldogs. Even with Gilbert, I’d still have the Dawgs as prohibitive favorites over the Gators this upcoming season, but this furthers the gap in my opinion. The bad news for the Dawgs is that it reopens the chances of the former 5-Star prospect going to Alabama. Most believed that the decision was a two-horse race between Georgia and Alabama both out of high school and after Gilbert announced his decision to transfer from LSU. Twice the 6’5″ 255 pounds, extremely athletic tight end spurned both the Dawgs and the Crimson Tide. Will the 3rd time be the charm for either of the two premier programs in the SEC? Georgia and Bama will certainly be looked at as the favorites, but there is a lot going on here to consider as well.
The timing of this announcement muddies the waters a lot. With the spring semester being well underway at all schools by at least a month, and Summer semesters not likely starting until late May, one has to wonder when Gilbert would even be able to actually join a team in full capacity? There have been a lot of rumors that have swirled around about eligibility and, or injury/health concerns for Gilbert since even before he entered the transfer portal at LSU. The original reasoning behind the transfer put out by the Gilbert camp was being homesick and wanting to be closer to family. Well, Gainesville, Florida, is only a shorter ride from Marietta by 2 and a half or 3 hours, than the ride to Baton Rouge, so that didn’t factor in too heavily the first time around. Undoubtedly there is some kind of baggage that is going to be brought with Gilbert to whichever program he selects this time around. The question is, which program is willing to take it on due to the immense amount of potential and ability that Gilbert has?
One would think that both Georgia and Alabama would once again be involved in Gilbert’s recruitment for the third time. However, Tennessee is a spot to keep an eye on as well. Harrison Bailey, a fellow former Marietta Blue Devil and the likely starting quarterback for new UT Head Coach Josh Heupel and the Volunteers, was not shy about openly courting Gilbert to Knoxville on social media nearly immediately after the monster tight end announced his decision to decommit from the Gators. That familiarity and the fact that Tennessee was a major player in Gilbert’s original recruitment out of high school is something to keep an eye on. However, it is a new staff, and there is, of course, the possibility that Tennessee will be punished heavily by the NCAA due to the McDonald’s bags of cash debacle that occurred under Phil Fulmer and Jeremy Pruitt.
Wherever Gilbert ends up, he will absolutely have the ability to make that program better right away if looking at pure talent in a vacuum. However, there are the elements of team chemistry and roster management to take into consideration as well. It will be interesting to see where Gilbert lands this time around and how long the process takes. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the former LSU Tiger wants to try to get to campuses once again. Of course, the Dawgs would love to be able to show Gilbert their new $80 million facilities if nothing else but by a virtual visit, but only time will tell what is actually going to be the key factor in Gilbert finding a home and keeping his promising career on track.