While Arik Gilbert may not fill a need in the same way Kendrick does, there’s no way you don’t chase and take a talent like him. This kind of production from a true freshman in SEC play ($$) doesn’t walk up to your door every day:
In fact, Gilbert’s 53 targets at LSU last year (6.6 per game) would have tied Pickens for the most by a Georgia player in 2020. Gilbert was also very active on third down, reeling in 11 catches for 107 yards, seven for first downs and one for a touchdown. That’s more third-down receptions than Pitts had last year for Florida, and similar to the impact that Pickens has had on third downs and in the red zone.
One more eyebrow-raising nugget: Those 11 receptions that Gilbert had on third down last year were more than Georgia tight ends’ combined targets on third down (10).
Gilbert caught 35 passes in eight games, which was 11 more receptions than all Georgia tight ends combined in 2020.
So, yeah, Smart would have been insane not to go after Gilbert.
The opportunity he presents for Todd Monken is pretty crazy, too. Imagine sets with Gilbert, Washington, Jackson, Burton and another receiver, or, to put even more pressure on an opposing defense, Cook out of the backfield… I, uh, will be back in a moment…
[Sounds of a cold shower running…]
Okay, where was I? Oh, yes. The debate that cropped up yesterday was about word from Gilbert himself that Smart had told him Georgia would use him as a wide receiver more than a tight end. There were rumors out that that Gilbert had lost a significant amount of weight (30 or so lbs.) from last season’s 253 pounds; this note from former Georgia receiver Terrence Edwards undercuts that somewhat.
(More thoughts about Gilbert from Edwards here.)
I swapped some tweets with Max Toscano, who writes for And The Valley Shook! about this. Max is convinced that Georgia, in choosing to use Gilbert as a wideout, will be squandering his physical advantage and talent. (Max wrote a very good piece about Gilbert and the flex tight end last year that you might want to read.) He watched a lot more of Gilbert last season than did I, so my first instinct was to defer to his call, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder how much of this is semantics. I mean, what makes a flex tight end a flex tight end is the ability to scheme him at the receiver position, something that LSU did a fair amount last season, as Graham Coffey notes in this clip.
Which brings me to my second reason for not wholeheartedly buying into Max’ argument. Am I really supposed to believe that Todd Monken can’t figure out what to do with Arik Gilbert? Honestly, that’s a bridge too far for me.
In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about this. Gilbert doesn’t make up for the loss of George Pickens, but I’d rather have his skills in the toolbox than not, that’s for sure. And imagine what Monken can dial up if Pickens does make it back this season.
I may need to take another quick shower.