STILLWATER — When Justin Gilbert steps on the football field, he immediately stands out from the crowd.
The Oklahoma State cornerback just has the look of a difference maker.
“There aren't many (people) walking around that look like him and run like him,” coach Mike Gundy said.
Gilbert made an immediate impact as a true freshman last year, leading the Pokes in kickoff returns. He averaged 26.82 yards per return with touchdowns against Baylor and Oklahoma.
This season, Gilbert is looking to be more than a standout kick returner; he's looking to make an impact as a cornerback.
And the early returns from this spring are very promising.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Gundy said. “Whatever he puts into it, he's going to get out of it.”
When quarterback Brandon Weeden was asked which defender stood out in Wednesday's scrimmage, he didn't hesitate.
“Justin Gilbert,” he said. “I think Justin Gilbert is special; he stands out.”
Last year was Gilbert's first season at cornerback and it took him a while to get comfortable playing defense after starring at quarterback at Huntsville (Texas) High School.
Spring drills have created the ideal situation for Gilbert to gain the needed experience required to become a core member of OSU's defense in 2011.
Every day, he lines up opposite 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon.
And he doesn't back down.
“Gilbert is going to get as much of a challenge (against Blackmon) as he's going to get,” Gundy said. “And I've noticed he has taken the challenge in one on ones. He's not backing down from him and that's how Perrish Cox and Jacob Lacey got to being good, by playing against Dez (Bryant).”
Blackmon has noticed the difference in Gilbert this spring. Say goodbye to the inexperienced freshman cornerback who arrived on campus in the fall of 2010.
“I can tell a big difference,” Blackmon said. “And I can tell he's only going to get better from now on. He's going to be a real good player for us.”
If Gilbert continues to develop a physical, defensive mindset, he could do more than just look like a difference maker at cornerback.
He could become one.
“I see him getting better every day,” Blackmon said. “The more and more I go against him the better I see him getting. He plays me great. He's starting to get physical out there and that's what he needed to do.”