Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert’s resurgent senior season has been recognized nationally, as on Monday he was named a finalist for the Thorpe Award given to the nation’s best defensive back.
The other finalists are Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Florida State’s LaMarcus Joyner.
Gilbert is tied for fifth in the nation with six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. He has also collected 37 tackles, five pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.
Dennard is the force behind a Spartan unit that leads the nation in total defense (236.6 yards per game) and ranks fourth in scoring defense (12.5 points per game), tallying 47 tackles (2.5 for loss), four interceptions, seven pass breakups, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.
Joyner has tallied 55 tackles (6.5 for loss), five sacks, one interception, three pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles for a Seminole squad that is tied for second in the nation in scoring defense (11.4 points per game) and ranks fifth in total defense (278.1 yards per game).
Gilbert’s inclusion is a bit of a surprise, as he was not on the list of 15 semifinalists released in late October. But he has emerged as perhaps the frontrunner for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and has earned the attention of NFL pundits. Last week, ESPN NFL Draft expert Todd McShay called him the best cover cornerback in the country.
Dec. 7 will likely be a big showcase day for all three finalists, as Gilbert will face Oklahoma with the Big 12 title on the line, Dennard will face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and Joyner will play in the ACC title game.