Former Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards knows Arik Gilbert better than most.
Since Gilbert’s ninth grade year, he’s trained at the Terrence Edwards Tight End/Wide Receiver Academy, where he honed his skill to become the nation’s top tight end two years ago.
During that time, Edwards has grown close to the former LSU player, who Tuesday announced he was transferring to Georgia, giving the Bulldogs yet another huge weapon on the offensive side.
While Edwards certainly believes Gilbert will make an immediate impact, it’s the knowledge that the former Marietta High standout is focused and ready to prove himself that has Edwards excited for the future.
“It (the past few months) took a toll on him, but besides his senior year, this is the most focused I’ve seen him,” Edwards said in a telephone interview with UGASports. “He’s been really focused to get his mind and body right. He definitely has that look in his eyes that he’s a man on a mission, academically and athletically. He has a lot to prove, most importantly to himself.”
Edwards said Gilbert is anxious to prove himself — even at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds — as a wide receiver, which is apparently the opportunity he’s going to receive.
Last year, Gilbert caught 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers.
“I think people said he couldn’t be that big and play wide receiver, and I think he wants to prove people wrong, that he can,” Edwards said. “I’m excited for him. He’s in a happy place, and that’s the most important thing.”
Edwards said he has no doubt Gilbert can play the position effectively. After all, he’s worked extensively with him since his ninth-grade year, including three times a week for the past two months.
“When I first got him, he was just a big kid who could catch very well—just didn’t understand the position very well—to now being an excellent route runner for a guy who is 250 pounds. He moves like a big wide receiver,” Edwards said. “I tell people he just happens to be this big, but he’s a wide receiver, just 250 pounds.
“I don’t know if he’s going to stay at 250. I can see him at 235, 240, but man, just being able to watch him move in and out of breaks is very impressive for a guy his size.”
Edwards said Gilbert spoke with him as he was deciding where to transfer. However, the final decision was left entirely up to him.
“He talked to me about a lot of things. Georgia was on the table, LSU, Florida; he talked to me about all his destinations. He was just trying to find the best move that makes him happy. I think this move makes his family and himself happy. His grandparents can come watch him play, his mom is a skip and a hop from him. I think that was very important,” Edwards said. “I’m just happy for him and his family, because he and they are lock-step in this decision. I don’t think everyone was into the first decision, but this time, the whole family was 100 percent into the decision that he made.”
Knowing what he knows about Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken and what he hopes to accomplish this fall, Edwards believes Gilbert will fit in just fine.
With Gilbert’s size and route running ability, that’s potentially bad news for opposing defensive backs.
“(Monken) is about finding matchups in that offense and exploiting those matchups, so I can honestly see Arik playing X receiver. Coach Monken likes those big bodies on the backside of the formation, and if he gets any kind of one-on-one matchup, he’s going to throw the ball to that one-on-one matchup. Being he’s 250 pounds, and moving that well, it’s going to be hard for a DB to just go out there and match him,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be hard. I can see it working well. Even if they move down to some of the in-line, not necessarily tight end, but do some blocking where you don’t have to sub. He has a very formational diversity that Georgia can use.”