For the second straight week, LSU’s football team lost its leading receiver to an opt out for the rest of the season.
A week after watching Terrace Marshall Jr. opt out after his team’s 20-7 loss at Texas A&M, Tigers head football coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Wednesday that freshman tight end Arik Gilbert was opting out for the remainder of the year.
LSU (3-5 overall) visits No. 6 Florida (8-1) for a 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday that will be televised by ESPN.
“Arik and I had a good conversation yesterday,” Orgeron said Wednesday during the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “He told me his was opting out. He said his body was hurting and he had some things he had to take care of.”
Gilbert took over in the role as LSU’s leading receiver after the departure of Marshall and following last week’s 55-17 home setback against Alabama had 35 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns.
The decision by Gilbert, the former national Gatorade Player of the Year from Marietta, Ga., leaves LSU razor-thin at the tight end position with senior Tory Carter and junior Aaron Moffitt already out.
True freshman Kole Taylor, who caught a pass for three yards against Texas A&M, is expected to get his first collegiate start. His backup might be Nick Storz, a pitcher on LSU’s baseball team, who has joined the team this past summer.
Orgeron believes Gilbert’s future at LSU is uncertain.
“Do I think we have a chance of getting him back next season?” he said. “Yeah. Is there a chance of him transferring? I don’t know that. He hasn’t told me that he’s transferring. Obviously, we’re going to re-recruit him. Obviously, we wish him the best. Take care of the things he has to take care of, and we would like him to be back next year.”
Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:
On your thoughts of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones
“Outstanding player that’s surrounded by a great offensive line. I think the offensive line is what makes them go and obviously DeVonta Smith’s an outstanding player. (Offensive coordinator) Steve Sarkisian’s going a great job and he’s (Jones) on the money. He’s a big quarterback, one of the best we’ve seen.”
On the challenge of facing the SEC’s division champions in consecutive weeks
“It’s the SEC. That’s why you signed up. You’ve just got to be ready. Turn the page, the 24-hour rule and onto Florida.”
On the factors that go into replenishing your roster
“Identifying the great high school players that are out there. We feel like we have an excellent recruiting class. Looking at the guys that are going to leave, position by position and slots that need to be filled either through recruiting high school players, junior college players or graduate transfers, which we’ve done very well. I wish I had more scholarships to fill the roster, but we don’t. We’re going to have to use the best 25 initial scholarships according to what we need on our football team.”
On what changes to the 85 limit scholarship rule you would like to see
“I wish we would have more initials to get back to our 85. Sometimes you don’t have enough initials to get back to 85. You lose a lot of guys that are juniors that went out, guys that in the (transfer) portal or guys that opted out. It’s going to be hard to keep your roster at 85.”
On the challenges of playing at home with reduced crowds and minimal environment
“Guys came to see that, especially at the Florida game (last season). I’m going to be honest I miss it. I miss the Tiger Walk with however many thousands of people there. It provides the energy. I miss the energy of Tiger Stadium. It’s not a disadvantage for the opposing team if we only have a minimal crowd here. Last year’s Tiger Stadium was phenomenal. I said the reason we beat Florida and Auburn was because we played them at home, and I gave credit to the fans.”
On the challenge of coaching a player like Derek Stingley who experienced a national championship last year and then dealing with this season
“I believe in Derek. I think he’s an outstanding team player and is going to have an outstanding career here at LSU and is going to be a great pro. There are some circumstances this year that he couldn’t control, that we couldn’t control. I think for the most part he’s played well. He’s done a great job for us and I think he’s going to come back next year and have a great year.”
On the methods in dealing with the mental health of players this year
“We have a great mental health program led by Shelly (Mullenix), Jack (Marucci) and Micky (Collins). We have counselors available. We’re constantly watching our guys for any signs of mental health, depression. Whatever they have to go through, especially if a guy is one day a happy guy and the next, he’s sad. We check them out and make sure they’re alright just like we do our kids.”
On this year being any more challenging in that sense
“I think so. It’s affected a lot of people. I’m 59 years old and it’s affected me, and I’ve got to be mentally tough. If it affects a 59-year-old that’s been through a lot of stuff, I’m sure it affects 18 to 22 years old. It’s just like the rest of America. People have been challenged. Businesses have been challenged. Everyone’s been challenged. Other teams have been challenged. We’ve just got to go through it.”
On an update on Saturday’s starting quarterback
“Not yet. Today’s a big third-down day. Both of those quarterbacks (TJ Finley, Max Johnson) had a good day yesterday. But it’s only Wednesday and we usually decide that stuff on Friday.”
On the play of the defense before Alabama
“Before the Alabama game we made tremendous progress in the Arkansas and A&M games and then we didn’t. We didn’t play well giving up 650 yards. They’re a great offense but we gave up some big balls, gave up some big runs. We got blocked, we were out of our gaps. We had some missed assignments. Very disappointed in the way we played against Alabama. Obviously, I’m not disappointed with the players. I think our players gave us the best shot they could, but we could have coached better. We made some mistakes. We made some mental errors. As far as the effort and the want-to, it was there.”
On your friendship with Florida head coach Dan Mullen
“Dan was a young GA (graduate assistant) when I was leaving Syracuse to go to USC. I’ve known him for a long time. John Hevesy, his offensive line coach, has been with him for years and was a young GA with us at Syracuse. They were young coaches and I respected them. He knows I respect him. I think he’s an outstanding football coach.”