Pro Football Focus NFL Draft analyst Mike Renner thinks Georgia redshirt sophomore TE Arik Gilbert could be generational.
Gilbert (6'5/249) made major headlines as a freshman at LSU when he was rated as the fifth best overall prospect from the 2020 prep class. A physical freak, Gilbert made an instant impact with the Tigers as a true freshman, catching 35-of-55 passes for 368 yards, 10.5 YPC and two touchdowns in just eight games before leaving the program and transferring to Georgia. He sat out 2020, but already made an impression on the field for the Dawgs by catching two touchdown passes in their 2022 spring game. The tape on Gilbert is exceptional and his athletic traits are close to unmatched. However Gilbert still needs to prove he is the elite level talent he has the potential to be for a full season. He will get that opportunity this year alongside fellow star tight end Brock Bowers for the national champions.
The Huskers make a crucial addition at a position of need. With the departure of Travis Vokolek — NU’s No. 1 tight end by some margins last season — it made sense for coach Matt Rhule to add a seasoned tight end for position coach Bob Wager. Gilbert, heading into his fourth season of college football, fits that bill. Provided he’s good to go off the field, Gilbert can play right away with returnee Nate Boerkircher and, if healthy, Chris Hickman. Everyone else, including twice-injured Thomas Fidone, is a question mark. For a program that wants to use tight ends, Gilbert’s addition was important.
Gilbert clearly has the talent, but is he ready to fully maximize his potential? As a true freshman, Gilbert – a former five-star recruit – had 35 catches for 368 yards at LSU. Hello! Since then, he’s had as many transfers as catches. Two. He logged 31 snaps at UGA this season as a wide receiver, since, at tight end, he’d be playing behind All-American Brock Bowers. At Nebraska, Gilbert will not encounter any All-Americans, and he’ll have a coaching staff that wants – needs – him to be at his 2020 form. Wager, a former high school coach, may be a good fit, too, for a player who has been caught in the gears of two power programs.
Jeff Sims and Casey Thompson should tip their caps to Rhule’s staff. Nebraska gave NU’s two quarterbacks – to engage in an interesting battle for starter this summer – a decent group of pass-catching options. Virginia’s Billy Kemp is a top-shelf catch-and-run guy, Josh Fleeks offers experience, and the return of Zavier Betts and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda juice the wide receiver room considerably. Gilbert may have more natural talent than anyone. NU will not be caught short the way Iowa was in 2022.
247Sports ranks transfer prospects in a similar fashion to high school talent, on a scale that goes all the way up to 100. Transfers in the 80-89 range are considered three stars, 90-97 are four stars and 98-plus are five stars.
When Gilbert signed with LSU in 2020, he was one of the most highly rated tight end prospects in 247Sports’ history. The No. 10 prospect nationally, he received plenty of hype from the moment he stepped on campus. As a freshman, he lived up to it, earning SEC All-Freshman honors after catching 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. His career from that point on has been bumpy, at best. He transferred to Georgia in 2021 but did not play that season and in 2022 struggled to find playing time behind the likes of Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington. Now he is taking his talents to Nebraska, where the hope is new coach Matt Rhule can finally unlock his full potential.