After almost a month away from the team, LSU star tight end Arik Gilbert has made his final decision: he will enter the NCAA transfer portal.
There were questions whether the 6-foot-5, 249-pound true freshman would return to campus after he officially opted out of the season with two games remaining, although LSU coach Ed Orgeron expressed optimism that Gilbert might come back.
Now, the player who was one of the crown jewels of the 2020 recruiting class has entered the transfer portal after spending less than a season in Baton Rouge.
"After careful consideration and collaboration with my family I've decided to enter the transfer portal," Gilbert wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. "I'd like to thank God for bestowing his blessings upon me."
After careful consideration and collaboration with my family I’ve decided to enter the transfer portal. I’d like to thank god for bestowing his blessings upon me.— AG2 (@arik_gilbert) January 2, 2021
Gilbert returned home to Marietta, Georgia, in the days after LSU's 55-17 loss against Alabama. He did not practice with the Tigers on the Monday after the game, and Orgeron said Gilbert met with him that Tuesday and told him he was going to opt out the rest of the season.
Gilbert said "his body was hurting and he had some things he had to take care of," Orgeron told reporters, and, at the time, the tight end did not tell Orgeron if he planned on returning to the team.
"Do I think we have a chance at getting him back next season? Yeah," Orgeron said at the time. "Is there a chance of him transferring? I don't know that. He hasn't told me he's transferring, but obviously we're going to re-recruit him and obviously we wish him the best. Take care of the the things he needs to take care of and be back with us next year."
Gilbert is a substantial loss for LSU and its future within the offense. The 6-foot-5, 249-pound freshman was the prize recruit of the 2020 class, the nation's Gatorade Player of the Year and the highest-rated tight end in the history of 247Sports.
In eight games, Gilbert was LSU's second-leading receiver with 35 catches, 368 yards and two touchdowns. He had not scored since catching six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown against Missouri, and Orgeron frequently said publicly that Gilbert should get more touches.
Gilbert's signing represented the jump LSU's football program was making during its record-breaking national championship season in 2019, and, upon his departure, LSU must now build off an inconsistent 2020 season without him.
LSU has four scholarship tight ends returning for the 2021 season, since Tory Carter, a hybrid fullback, also announced that he will be entering the NFL draft.
True freshman Kole Taylor started in place of Gilbert in LSU's final games against Florida and Ole Miss, and the 6-foot-7, 243-pound Colorado native had five catches for 33 yards in those games.
Sophomore Nick Storz, an LSU baseball player, saw time in the final two games, although he didn't record a catch. Aaron Moffitt, a junior, missed the season with a torn ACL, and sophomore Devonta Lee moved to tight end in the middle of the season.
LSU also signed three-star Mississippi recruit Jalen Shead, who was the nation's No. 51-ranked tight end, according to 247Sports.