STILLWATER — Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert will return for his senior season, a school official confirmed to The Oklahoman Sunday.
The Tulsa World first reported Sunday that Gilbert had told family members he would not enter the NFL Draft and had instead opted to come back to Stillwater for his final season of eligibility.
Gilbert followed up a promising sophomore season in 2011 with a disappointing junior campaign, tallying 63 tackles, zero interceptions, nine pass breakups and one forced fumble. He also averaged 25.8 yards per kick return, including a 96-yarder for a touchdown against West Virginia to set a school record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a career (five).
In 2011, Gilbert recorded five interceptions and was the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP in his first season as a starting cornerback. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
That development and production, combined with elite speed and natural athleticism, prompted immense hype about Gilbert heading into the 2012 season.
Things, simply, did not pan out as expected.
Gilbert was often on the receiving end of outside criticism after a season where he was part of a Cowboy pass defense that allowed 280 yards per game and was often pushed by true freshman Kevin Peterson for playing time.
Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said Gilbert sometimes put too much pressure on himself. And Gilbert admitted before the Heart of Dallas Bowl he sometimes lacked focus during the season.
“I know, from my perspective, that I made plays when I really locked in,” he said. “The plays that I didn't make, it was just things I have to learn from.
“There were some times when I just got zoned out, just floating into coverage. Whenever I went back and watched film, I could see it.”
But during that conversation, Gilbert said he was still considering going pro after the season, and that he would make a decision following the bowl game.
When asked about Gilbert's future, Jones said Gilbert, who played quarterback in high school, would benefit from one more year at OSU.
“What he did his sophomore year is just the beginning,” Jones said. “I think he has a huge upside. And I think (with) one more year, he'd have a chance to show just what he's capable of doing.”
The future of OSU All-Big 12 running back Joseph Randle, though, remains unclear.
A source told The Oklahoman that, as of Friday afternoon, Randle had not yet made a decision on if he will return for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft. Randle is rated as a middle-round pick by most prominent draft projections.