Every day here at Your Best 11, we are counting down to the start of the regular season with our Top 150 players for the 2012 season.
No. 112: Justin Gilbert, No. 4, Oklahoma State, Cornerback
Last season, Gilbert was one of the team leaders on Oklahoma State's big turnover defense. The sophomore posted five interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 2011 for the defense that had 24 interceptions on the season.
Gilbert also was one of the nation's best kickoff return men, taking two to the house for the Pokes.
Gilbert is really one of the Cowboys' best defensive players. The cornerback works well in their coverage schemes, as evidenced by his big breakup total and solid interception numbers.
Justin Gilbert is quite capable in both man and zone coverages. He has tremendous body control, and in zone coverage he is very good at operating in space, recognizing his threats and allowing the quarterback to take him to the football.
In man coverage, Gilbert has the speed and technique to make the quarterback's throw difficult and the ball skills to knock passes away or come away with the interception.
That speed also comes in handy in the return game. Gilbert is an absolute burner who can get up to top speed in a hurry and is hard for cover units to catch once he finds a seam.
This is a bit of splitting hairs because Gilbert is quite the sound football player. He even contributed in the run game, making 59 tackles.
No, Justin Gilbert is not the problem for Oklahoma State. The rising junior gets interceptions, he makes plays and he does his job well.
However, one major weakness will be the new rule change. Gilbert was such an effective kick returner that in 2012 this new rule might serve to neutralize how effective he can be in the upcoming season.
Teams will have an easier time kicking the ball out of the end zone, avoiding his dangerous return skills. If Gilbert does elect to bring the ball out it will be quite the battle with players getting on him quicker this season.
Look for more out of Gilbert at the cornerback spot. On the defensive side of things, Justin Gilbert will remain one of the best corners in the Big 12, working to stop the pass-happy offenses that populate the conference. Oklahoma State, as a whole, must work to stop the run, and that is a major sticking point going forward for this defense.
With a freshman quarterback in Wes Lunt, the Pokes defense needs to get stops and allow the first-year signal-caller to make mistakes without the pressure of putting up points on every series.
In the return game, Gilbert's impact will be interesting given the new rules in college football. Definitely will be something to watch for in 2012.
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