Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has already proven why he’s one of the most elite recruiters in the country in the past, but last week, he did it again as former LSU tight end Arik Gilbert and Clemson defensive back Derion Kendrick both committed to the Bulldogs.
Both Gilbert and Kendrick were five-stars out of high school, according to the industry generated 247Sports Composite.
Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247 was the first to break the news on Gilbert, while Mike Griffith of DawgNation confirmed the report of Kendrick transferring to UGA.
Smart has used the NCAA student transfer portal to his advantage.
Last season, the sixth year head coach landed two high-profile players in quarterbacks Jamie Newman (Wake Forest) and J.T. Daniels (USC).
Kendrick brings experience
Recently, the Bulldogs lost a handful of defensive backs, so Smart and the coaching staff went after West Virginia cornerback Tykee Smith, who is now with the team.
Several weeks later, Smart added former Alabama defensive back Brandon Turnage after sophomores Daran Branch and Major Burns left the program. Now, with the addition of Kendrick, Georgia’s defensive backfield is starting to shape up.
Kendrick is a former All-ACC defensive back that initially went to Clemson as a wide receiver, but switched to cornerback after his freshman season. In 31 career games as a Tiger, the Rock Hill, Sc. native has 71 total tackles, 12 pass breakups and three interceptions.
Kendrick brings a ton of veteran experience to a young Georgia secondary. His game could develop more under defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and new defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae. Kendrick still has some things to clean up in the offseason before fall camp starts, but look for him to make an immediate impact and compete for a starting spot.
Gilbert provides even more depth
When George Pickens tore his ACL at spring practice earlier this year, UGA was looking for someone that could replace the team’s second-leading receiver from a year ago. The Bulldogs have a ton of talent at wide receiver, although most of those players are either coming off an injury or are still inexperienced.
Now, Georgia could have found Pickens’ replacement in Gilbert.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound pass catcher was heavily recruited out of high school by Smart and nearly committed to UGA, despite former five-star and current Bulldog Darnell Washington being pursued at the same time. Gilbert, who’s from Marietta, later gave his pledge to LSU and that’s how Washington ended up in Athens.
In eight games at LSU Gilbert hauled in 35 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns. His size and speed gives him the ability to get open and go after 50-50 balls. In comparison, four different Georgia tight ends combined to catch 24 passes for 381 yards and two scores last season. But, most of that production happened towards the end of the year when Daniels took over as the starting quarterback.
Still, Gilbert helps with the depth at both the wide receiver and tight end positions. Look for offensive coordinator Todd Monken to use a lot of two tight end sets with both Washington and Gilbert. But, also, watch for Gilbert to be used at the “X” receiver position like former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Georgia hosted several big-time recruits last week as the NCAA lifted the “dead period” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lake Oconee News reported that high-profile UGA commit Keithan “Bear” Alexander was in Athens for his first official visit. After visiting Texas A&M over this past weekend, Alexander backed off his commitment from UGA and re-opened his recruitment, per his Twitter on Monday. He was Georgia’s highest rated pledge in the 2022 cycle, ranking as the nation’s No. 26 overall player and the No. 7 prospect from Texas.
However, aside from Alexander’s decommitment, five-star Rabun County quarterback and current UGA commit Gunner Stockton was also in town. Smart and company also hosted the nation’s top running back in Branson Robinson (Germantown, Miss), per Rivals. West Forsyth High School product Oscar Delp was also in Athens last week. The Cumming native is the nation’s No. 2 tight end and the No. 9-ranked prospect out of the Peach State.
Branson and Delp are trending towards UGA on both Rivals and 247Sports after their visits.
A couple of other Georgia commits were in Athens last week, including De’Nylon Morrissette and Malaki Starks, per their respective social media pages.
Lambert High School product Kojo Antwi took a visit to Athens on June 4, according to 247Sports. Antwi is a four-star prospect from Suwanee who is being heavily pursued by Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, USC and Texas A&M.
The Bulldogs are also actively going after IMG Academy defensive back Kamari Wilson, who took unofficial visits to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Auburn and Florida last week, per 247Sports. Wilson is on top of Georgia’s list as the five-star heads into his final season at IMG in Bradenton, Florida.