The Vols have been among the teams recruiting him hardest since they extended an offer to him on Aug. 27. He said he has stayed in contact with Heupel, Tennessee defensive backs coach Willie Martinez and defensive coordinator Tim Banks.
“They’re just really looking for some mature guys to come in and fill some roles,” Gilbert said. “That’s really what they’re looking for — just some mature guys that can come in and make a difference.”
He said the Vols have told him that he could “definitely come in and compete” for early playing time at safety.
“They didn’t really tell me (I could) come in and play right away,” said Gilbert, who played at Flagler Palm Coast High School in Palm Coast, Fla. “They know it’s a process of competing. But they definitely did say that I’d have a chance to come in and get the job. Anywhere you go, you’ve got to compete.”
Gilbert said he’s interested in Tennessee because he likes the “family feel” he has gotten from the Vols’ coaches. Since he’s “from the South,” he said, he’s also intrigued by the possibility of playing in the SEC.
“That’s really all I can say right now,” he added. “I haven't really met them in person. I haven’t been there yet, so I would just really say just talking and seeing these familiar faces and getting to know the coaches personally, that’s big.”
Heupel’s staff has made a good impression on him so far.
“They’re definitely about their business,” Gilbert said. “Everything that they say, I can tell they’re not just saying it to say. Like I said, I’ve been through the recruiting process. They’re telling me stuff that I believe is real. I have an ear for good people. Just being on the phone with them and building that connection every day, that’s really it.”
Before heading to Tennessee, he said he “may go” on an official visit to Auburn the weekend of Oct. 30 for the Tigers’ home game against Ole Miss.
He has already this fall taken an official visit to Colorado and next weekend will visit Auburn. Gilbert is expected to visit Tennessee next month and could end up taking visits to Florida State and Louisville, two programs that offered him this week.
Safety Marquise Gilbert will take his official to Tennessee either next weekend or for the Vanderbilt game. It simply depends on whether he and his team get a win this weekend to advance in the playoffs. Originally from Florida, FSU and Auburn appear to be the biggest competition but the Vols seem to be deeper in this one than most.