Kirby Smart addresses tight end Arik Gilbert’s absence

COLUMBIA, SC — Although the Georgia Bulldogs took care of business against South Carolina on Saturday, there was one big lingering question after the fact.

Georgia tight end Arik Gilbert did not make the trip with the team Saturday for the Bulldogs’ first SEC game of 2022. When asked about Gilbert’s absence after the game, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart did not have many details to share with reporters.

“All I can say is he didn’t make the trip for personal reasons,” Smart said.[We’re] hoping he gets back with us.”

Gilbert received plenty of attention entering the 2022 season for Georgia, but his role through two games has been minimal. He played 13 snaps in the Bulldogs’ season opener against Oregon but did not record a catch on 1 target; the next week, Gilbert played 10 snaps but did not record a catch nor a target.

While Gilbert was not available, Georgia did bring five tight ends to Columbia on Saturday.

Gilbert entered the spring with plenty of hype and quickly took advantage of extra reps due to the absences of Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington for the entire spring and later Ryland Goede after an injury suffered during the spring. Gilbert ended the spring on a high note by catching 3 passes for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns to help the Black team defeat the Red team at G-Day.

Smart explained back on April 1 that Gilbert was somewhere around 265-270 pounds but had been working diligently at getting in better shape. Based on Van Pran’s comments, those efforts by Gilbert through the summer have been worthwhile.

“His body has definitely changed. The guy is a freak,” Van Pran said. “Arik is like, you almost forget that he came from another place because he’s embraced the guys around the locker room so much, and the guys have embraced him. I think that having Arik around is definitely a good thing for our team.”

Smith praised Gilbert as well, describing him as quick, fast and physical before adding he’s coming along great in the Bulldogs’ program. Bennett pointed out Gilbert understands getting open in space as a receiver and how to work through the scramble drill, explaining that Gilbert continues to work to get open once the quarterback is on the move.

Bennett made it clear Gilbert still has a ways to go, but he likes what he sees from the sophomore tight end.

“[He’s] still getting everything down because it’s like he just got here,” Bennett said. “He’s a really good football player.”

Gilbert’s journey up to this point has been somewhat of a rollercoaster.

The Gatorade National Player of the Year while at Marietta High School, the five-star prospect began his college career at LSU. He received first team Freshman All-SEC honors in 2020 after catching 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers.

Gilbert left LSU after his freshman season and initially transferred to Florida before then transferring to Georgia last summer. He was a second team All-American selection by PFF but was not with the Bulldogs during fall camp due to what Smart deemed “personal issues.”

Gilbert did not suit up for the Bulldogs in 2021 but was with the team when they celebrated their national championship with a parade in Athens on Jan. 15.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: