MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OSU

November 2, 2013

OSU DB shining in bid for personal comeback

STILLWATER – After Oklahoma State’s dominant defensive performance in the season opener against Mississippi State, Justin Gilbert proclaimed it was the beginning of a personal comeback story.

A veritable shell of himself during his junior campaign, in just one game of his senior year he had already eclipse his mark for interceptions from the previous season. With simply getting just one interception.

“I learned from last year. It was just a minor setback, hopefully setting up a major comeback,” Gilbert said.

He wasn’t going to stop there.

Gilbert wanted everybody – fans, coaches, potential professional teams – to forget about his forgettable junior campaign. He wanted people to remember what he did as sophomore to help OSU to its greatest season in program history – a Big 12 Conference Championship and its first ever berth in a BCS bowl game.

“All I can say is from Day 1 in the spring, when I had the first meetings with the defense, I don’t think there’s been anybody on our side that’s been more focused or locked in on wanting to play well. His work and his commitment to being the best player that he can be this year is the key, and not looking back to last year,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said.

While Gilbert is merely halfway through his final year in the Cowboy program, he has more than accomplished that.

The Huntsville, Texas, native has four interception through the first seven games of the year. In his breakout sophomore season, Gilbert had five – which was in the top 15 nationally. And in looking back, three of those interceptions were of quarterbacks now starting on Sundays – Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill.

While Oklahoma State hasn’t necessarily faced the type of quarterbacks that will be starting at the next level – let alone quarterbacks that will even play after college – he’s at least getting back to the cornerback that had him being talked about as potential high NFL draft pick.

Cowboy coach Mike Gundy has said throughout this year, that was likely a factor to his abysmal junior campaign. Gundy has stated he believes the pressure from non-football related influences thinking about Gilbert’s pro potential, had Gilbert playing timid at times – as fear of getting injured and damaging his prospects.

While he stayed healthy, he still took a hit when it came to the next level. Outside of a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against West Virginia, Gilbert never had much fanfare.

“We challenged him a little bit in some of the techniques we’re playing. Those guys are on an island quite a bit,” Spencer said. “We put a lot of pressure on Justin and that allows us to do some different things coverage-wise, but it puts him on an island and he’s come through big time.”

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