Here's a look at the three main candidates to return punts for the Cowboys in 2012, as a well as some insight from OSU wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn, who has been working with returners during the spring.
Justin Gilbert, junior
2011 return stats: no punt returns; 20 kickoff returns, 27 yards per return, two touchdowns
Gilbert has already proven himself as a dynamic kickoff returner who can shake the first wave of defenders and then take it to the house with breakaway speed. But coaches have made an effort not to overwork a guy who also starts at cornerback and already has numerous special teams responsibilities. That is one key reason why Gilbert did not return punts in 2011, even though he claims former special teams coordinator Joe DeForest considered putting him back there following the Texas A&M game.
Kasey Dunn's take: “Gilbert's got an unbelievable ability with the ball in his hands. The thing he's got to work on most is making sure he gets enough catches and touches, because he's so active in everything else we do. He's on field-goal block. He's on kickoff return. He's on everything. He's such a talented guy, he's just everywhere.”
Josh Stewart, sophomore
2011 return stats: one punt return, minus-3 yards; 13 kickoff returns, 20.1 yards per return
Stewart showed flashes of shiftiness as a backup inside receiver during his freshman season. He is the only player on the current roster who fielded a punt last season.
Kasey Dunn's take: “He's got that quick twitch, make you miss in space, does a great job feeling the football. Both (him and David Glidden) have a lot of courage and guts back there, and that's what it takes.”
David Glidden, redshirt freshman
2011 return stats: none (redshirt)
Glidden is a similar mold as Stewart — a smaller guy (5-foot-7) with solid hands and an array of moves to get by tacklers.
Kasey Dunn's take: “Glidden's really done a nice job. He gets under every ball, catches everything, and he'll make that first guy miss. It's hard to see that little joker back there, too.”