Every recruiting cycle, there’s always one prospect that feels different from the rest.
In LSU’s 2020 signing class, Arik Gilbert could be that guy, stepping on campus as the highest-rated tight end that 247Sports has ever scouted.
And even though he hasn’t played a single snap yet in a Tiger uniform, Gilbert has the ability to ‘break out’ because of the instant impact he’s expected to make as a freshman.
Gilbert’s commitment to Ed Orgeron and the Tigers was one that shocked the recruiting world when he announced on Oct. 23 at Marietta High School. The 6-foot-5, 253-pound five-star was expected to choose his hometown Georgia Bulldogs, or even the Alabama Crimson Tide, but after his visit to Baton Rouge for the Florida game on Oct. 14, Gilbert had made up his mind.
“With the culture of the school, the atmosphere of the games, and now with the offense that they’re running, I think I’ll fit into it perfectly,” Gilbert told DawgNation after his commitment.
What separated LSU from the rest, Gilbert says, was the school as a whole. Even if he wasn’t playing football, he would still want to go to LSU for the university it is. And with the offense they run now, that put it over the top for him to ultimately pull the trigger.
With Thaddeus Moss deciding to forgo his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft, that gives Gilbert the opportunity to slide in and make plays right away. Finishing his high school career with 243 catches for 3,540 yards and 35 TDs, while also being named Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Georgia, the expectations surrounding Gilbert are sky-high.
At the Peach Bowl, Orgeron mentioned Gilbert’s commitment ceremony took place during one of LSU’s practices in October. When Gilbert committed, he specifically remembers seeing his recruiting guys running out of the football operations building in pure jubilation.
“I thought there was a fire,” Orgeron said with a smile. “They were jumping and hollering. I’m going [to myself] ‘What’s going on?,’ and halfway I figured out that Arik must have committed. At practice I’m always serious, but we were all high fiving, the whole team was high fiving.”
Gilbert was one of eight early enrollees in January before campus was forced to close in response to COVID-19. With Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, and a stable of running backs returning, Gilbert provides quarterback Myles Brennan with a set of weapons unlike any offense in the country.
“A big thing throughout the process that I valued was family,” Gilbert said. “I feel like Coach O has a good thing going there. I fell in love with it from the moment I stepped on the campus.”