The Arizona Wildcats have addressed a lot of needs in this 2017 recruiting class, with an emphasis on pass catchers with great size. 6-foot-5, 230 pound Bryce Gilbert figures to be a piece that can help the utilization of tight ends in Arizona’s offense.
A former basketball standout, Gilbert transferred from Pinnacle to Higley for his junior year, which has worked to his advantage. In his first season with the Knights, he hauled in 65 catches for 1,056 yards and 16 touchdowns, becoming a focal point of the offense.
Gilbert doesn’t need to be the go-to guy, as Higley is loaded with a lot of talent on the outside, but he is a guy that can do it all for the Knights.
"Man, I’m blessed to be able to coach him," Higley offensive coordinator Joe Ortiz said about Gilbert. "He’s our guy. We can have him inside, outside, blocking, he’ll do whatever we ask him to do for us. You’ll see him return kicks over here and we plan to use him at safety tonight too."
After being held out in week one, Gilbert was ready to get back on the field and make the most of his senior season debut vs. St. Mary’s (Phoenix, AZ).
St. Mary’s refused to kick the ball off to him, and was forced to bring extra help on almost all of his routes. Gilbert finished the night with three receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown. He also returned one kick to the outside for 19 yards, and added two pancakes to his stat sheet.
"Not really," Gilbert said when asked if the double teaming frustrated him. "Not this year. I don’t need the exposure. I’m already committed, I’m happy. I’d rather give my teammates all the exposure they can get to help them get recruited so it doesn’t matter to me really."
Last season, Gilbert played at 210 pounds. This offseason, he added 20 pounds to his frame, which has improved his game and helped him prepare for the next level. He currently runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, paired with a 36-inch vertical.
"Yeah, it’s a lot easier to move people around," he explained about his offseason change. "Last year at 210 a lot of people were my size. Now at 230 a lot of people are kinda scared to come up and hit me. So it’s kinda fun to just be able to move people around and be the boss of someone."
The 3-star prospect picked up offers to Arizona State, Louisville, Nebraska and Oregon State, among others in the span of two weeks this past February, making him one of the fastest-rising prospects in the state of Arizona.
"(Bryce) kept telling me ‘Coach, I just want to get these offers, I want to get these offers’, and I would tell him not to worry, they’ll come," Ortiz explained. "They started coming in and one day he told me ‘Coach, I just want to end this process. I don’t want to deal with it anymore, I just want to commit’."
On June 13, Gilbert ended his recruitment, pledging to Rich Rodriguez and his offense.
"We talked about it and he just loved Arizona. I thought maybe Nebraska, even ASU, but he loves Arizona," continued Ortiz. "He’ll still get offers I’m sure, but he’s very loyal, you don’t have to worry about his commitment."
For Gilbert, it was all about tight end coach Charlie Ragle, who served as his main recruiter.
"Coach Ragle is my guy, and I just didn't want to leave the state" Gilbert said. "He reminded me of my dad and I’ve always played for my dad. It was so easy for me to make that decision because he was just such a great guy."
Ragle was standing on the Higley sideline Friday night, watching his future tight end. During the recruitment of 4-star OT Michael Eletise, he told me that Ragle was the most inspirational coach he had ever been around, a main reason why he also decided to attend Arizona.
"Yeah it means a lot seeing him out there," continued Gilbert. "It sucks that I can’t talk to him because of the rules but him coming out means a lot to me, just showing that support."
Gilbert will come into the program as a tight end for Arizona, as Rich Rodriguez continues to develop that position group. Trevor Wood, Brion Anduze and Jamie Nunley serve as the prototypical tight ends for the offense, and the coaching staff really likes what they have with Bryce Gilbert.
You can watch Gilbert’s junior year highlights below: