Justin Gilbert had one of the best sophomore seasons of any cornerback in the nation in 2011 for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He led the team with five interceptions and had picks off quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones and Ryan Tannehill as a leader of the Cowboys’ turnover-happy defense. But that production significantly fell off in 2012 as the whole defense struggled to create turnovers. Will a more aggressive and focused Gilbert lead to a bounce-back season in 2013?
There were several reasons for why head coach Mike Gundy believes Gilbert struggled as a junior last season. The incredible success he had in 2011 gave him a sense that he had “arrived” and caused Gilbert to pull up at times. The cornerback admitted that he didn’t always finish out a play and allowed outside distractions to harm his focus. He had also fallen into the bad habit of relying on his athleticism to make plays rather than improving his technique and OSU’s philosophy of giving a 10-yard cushion didn’t do him any favors either.
New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, however, has seen a different Gilbert this spring. When Spencer has been teaching, Gilbert has been locked in every day looking to get better, practicing with purpose and leading the defense with his play. Combined with Specner’s more aggressive approach to defense, allowing the corners to press and attack routes, Gilbert looks poised to have his best season yet.
There isn’t anybody who will argue that Gilbert doesn’t have the talent to be one of the premier cornerbacks in college football. While his ascent to the ranks of the elite was sidetracked in 2012, he is ready to put all of that behind him and make a major splash during his senior season in 2013.