Report: Georgia lands transfers Arik Gilbert, Derion Kendrick
Contributed by Brian Butcher
(Photo Credit: John Reed/USA TODAY Sports)
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has done it again.
The Bulldogs begin optional workouts this week, so rumors began to swirl that a couple of high-profile athletes from the transfer portal might be in Athens. Well, today, buzz proved to be true.
Former LSU tight end Arik Gilbert and Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick joined the Bulldogs on Monday. Both are former five-star prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Rusty Mansell of 247Sports confirmed the news that Gilbert was transferring to UGA, while a source close to Mike Griffith of DawgNation confirmed the news on Kendrick.
Smart has done a masterful job this offseason in addressing his team's weaknesses through the transfer portal. With Georgia losing a handful of defensive backs to the NFL and one to the transfer portal, they were in dire need of experience at the position.
Smart first went out to nab former West Virginia player Tykee Smith, who will likely fill the star position on defense. Several weeks later, Smart added former Alabama defensive back Brandon Turnage to the roster. Turnage could play corner or back up at safety for the Bulldogs, given his size and skillset.
Now, Georgia has filled another roster spot with Kendrick. The former All-ACC defensive back initially went to Clemson as a wide receiver but switched to cornerback after his freshman season. In his first year on defense, he was named Second-Team All-ACC.
In his 31 career games, Kendrick has 23 starts, 71 tackles, 12 pass breakups and 3 interceptions. The South Carolina native is not short on talent and could develop even further under Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.
(Photo Credit: Richard Shiro/Associated Press)
When star wideout George Pickens injured his ACL in spring practice, UGA was lacking a receiver who could reliably haul in contested throws in clutch situations. Georgia has an immense amount of talent at receiver, but most of those players are either inexperienced or coming off of an injury.
Now, UGA has found that player who could fill the hole left in Pickens’ absence. From Marietta, Gilbert was recruited heavily by Coach Smart and nearly committed to Georgia, despite former five-star and current Bulldog Darnell Washington being pursued at the same time.
However, he ended up at LSU and made an immediate impact on the team. At 6-foot-5, 250 lbs, Gilbert brings a rare combination of size and athleticism. In eight games at LSU, he notched 35 receptions, 368 yards and 2 touchdowns. Gilbert’s best game came in a 45-41 loss to Missouri, where he recorded 97 yards and a touchdown.
With Georgia already loaded with talent at the tight end position with Washington, John FitzPatrick and freshman Brock Bowers, don’t be surprised if Gilbert finds himself playing a combination of receiver and tight end this season. Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken will surely find ways to move around Gilbert and put him in mismatch situations.
Smart talked about how important tight ends are to an offense after Georgia’s win over Missouri last December.
“You can never have enough good tight ends in the SEC because they are big, they are athletic, and they can catch the ball,” Smart said, per Bulldawg Illustrated. “There are so many things they can do, it’s one of those things we want as many as we can get, and we want to get the ball.”
Smart added: “Coach (Todd) Monken really likes using multiple tight end sets, it is done a lot in the NFL. You can mismatch people and have the ability to run the ball, and then also flex them out and throw the ball. It’s really frustrating to defend.”
The only concern UGA fans should have with Kendrick and Gilbert is their impact on the locker room.
Kendrick was kicked off of Clemson for a violation of team rules. In March, he was found asleep in his car with a gun in his lap and a small amount of marijuana, per the HeraldOnline.
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said about Kendrick, “He’s got a really good heart. He’s never been a disrespectful young man or anything like that. Just sometimes there needs to be a change.”
As Kendrick will be eligible to go pro after this year, he is incentivized to make the most of this season and avoid any off-field issues.
Gilbert is rumored to have some academic issues, which, if true, apparently have been resolved. He opted out of the end of the 2020 season for the Tigers and quickly reports of his desire to transfer emerged. Gilbert entered the transfer portal at the end of the season and was rumored to be going to UGA. Later, he committed to the University of Florida only to de-commit less than a month later. Finally, he landed in Athens.
Perhaps Gilbert was homesick and frustrated with LSU’s disappointing season. Maybe LSU’s reported NCAA violations made him reconsider his future at the school. Whatever the case, Georgia fans will want Gilbert to be committed to the program and act accordingly.
With these two additions, Smart has undeniably improved the talent of the team. UGA has positioned itself for a run at a conference championship and a playoff birth. However, the Bulldogs may have added the challenge of dealing with two difficult personalities. As expectations are at an all-time high for Georgia, the pressure to deliver will be at the same high level.