2016 Target: Mark Gilbert

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. --- North Carolina has landed a spot on Mark Gilbert’s early favorite schools list. But the Tar Heels will have to contend with the 6-foot-1, 170-pound cornerback’s connections to Pittsburgh, including being related to star alum Darrelle Revis.

Scouting Report

“Mark is a very blessed player in a lot of ways,” Terry Sanford head coach Bryan Till said. “He’s very polished for a young man of his age. He’s a great cover guy. He’s very fast, very physical, but he’s a very heady player. That’s why I say he’s polished, because he has the physical skills but he also has the intellectual ability to understand the game. He’s been around the game [and] he’s been around NFL players, because of that his knowledge of the game transcends a lot of kids his age who have the same physical skills but aren’t as polished because they don’t have the understanding that he does. He has been around a very high level of competition, so he’s not intimidated very easily.”

Prep Career

Since his freshman year, Gilbert has started at cornerback for Sanford.

This past season, every Friday night Gilbert knew his assignment – locking down the opponent’s top receiving target.

“He faced five or six guys that are 800 yards or better [for the season] in man-to-man coverage and he only gave up 11 catches this year,” Till said. “A couple of those [opposing receivers] were 1,200-yard guys. One of those 11 [passes he allowed] was on a screen pass and one of them he broke on to pick but it bounced off his hands and the guy catches it behind him.”

Additionally, Gilbert ended the season with three interceptions, six pass breakups, and 34 tackles.


With the recent additions of Pittsburgh and West Virginia, Gilbert’s scholarship offer count has reached eight. Boston College, Duke, Georgia Southern, NC State, Old Dominion, and Wake Forest round out his list of offers.

“Every week it seems like somebody new [has inquired],” Till said. “We’ve even had Ohio State, Penn State down in the office in the month of January just to check on things. That’s quite a trip for those guys to make intentionally.”

Most of Gilbert’s offers have arrived within the past few months. A broken leg suffered about a year ago hindered his recruitment.

“He was kind of hidden, because he had the injury during basketball season last year,” Till said. “People didn’t really find out about him until during the course of the football season. He wasn’t able to do a lot of things during the offseason last year.”

Although North Carolina has shown plenty of interest, its recruitment of Gilbert has been hindered by turnover throughout its coaching staff, especially renovations to its defensive staff and the loss of the recruiter assigned to Fayetteville. New arrival John Papuchis has attempted pick up the pieces.

“As soon as [Papuchis] got in, he called,” Till said. “We’ve gotten in touch with each other several times. During the transition time, [Jason] Tudryn was in touch with us quite a bit.

“They have expressed how much they like both [Gilbert and Isaiah Stallings], but they’re behind the eight ball and they’re trying to evaluate talent. They said they don’t want to get behind on this kid because they know how great of a player he is.”

Along those lines, Gilbert was invited to UNC’s first junior day back in January.

“It was a good day,” Gilbert said. “We got up there, all the coaches greeted us at the door, and you could just tell that they were excited that we were there… You could tell there was a change around the coaches and just the environment – they really meant business.”

The man most responsible for said change is newly hired defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who Gilbert met during his visit. Also that day, Gilbert attended his first UNC basketball game and spoke in-depth with Papuchis.

“He said they will offer, but he told me with the coaching change they were set back a little bit,” Gilbert said. “But he said that I will have an offer.”

Gilbert has also attended junior days at Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest.

Gilbert has a top four schools list composed of Duke, UNC, NC State, and Pittsburgh.

“All of them, I like that they have their players play with a chip on their shoulders,” Gilbert said. “They go out and practice like champions. And you always want to go to a school where you feel that you fit in. I just feel like I fit into those schools.”

Of the four schools, Pittsburgh is somewhat of an outlier. But the Panthers would provide Gilbert with an opportunity to return to the city where he was born and play for a program to which he has plenty of ties.

“With the family being there, that’s pretty much the family school,” Gilbert said. “My cousin Darrelle [Revis] went there, my uncle Sean [Gilbert], I have a cousin who’s currently there Reggie Mitchell, and then Jordan Whitehead he’ll be there next year. There’s definitely (many) from the family to go there.”

Gilbert’s recruiting pulls don’t stop there. His cousin, Zack, and teammate Stallings are both major recruits.

“Isaiah and I, we talk about [attending the same school] all the time, because we go to these junior days together,” Gilbert said. “So when we’re up there, we talk about stuff when we go and what we see.

“And even Zack, I text Zack all the time. Him and I, we’re cousins so it’s been our dream since we were young to go to the same school.”

Extra Notes

Gilbert moved to Fayetteville from Pittsburgh in the sixth grade… Despite his ties to Pitt, Gilbert is actually a Michigan State fan… Gilbert (17 points) helped Sanford’s basketball team win the Cape Fear Valley Conference and reach the third round of the NCHSAA 3A Tournament.

Mark Gilbert

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