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April 24, 2013

Justin Gilbert is a focal point in Spencer's new ultra-aggressive defense

Justin Gilbert looked different on Saturday.

Not only did he look hungrier, with a look in his eye we haven't seen since 2011, but he also looked better on the field, intercepting two passes and resembling his old self.

A lot was made from his disappointing season last year. Was he overhyped? Was he held back by a soft style in 2012? Was he really that good?

Gilbert certainly made an argument for the style of play debate, as he looked like he was back to form.

"I thought they played well," coach Mike Gundy said. "I thought we saw Justin make some plays, he made a couple more plays today than I thought he did all last season."

Gilbert's a prototypical bump-and-run cornerback, meaning he has enough size to get up in a receivers space at the line of scrimmage, enough power to not get knocked backwards when they fire off, and enough speed to turn his hips and stay with that receiver through his route.

In 2012, the cornerbacks were often held back in 7 to 10 yard cushions, which didn't take advantages of the assets Gilbert has and thus led to him being exposed.

"He's improved, I think his attitude has changed considerably," said Gundy. "He's aware that he didn't play as well as he needed to last year. He certainly has all the talent, but he still has a ways to go."

With the new scheme in place, his attitude is likely to only get better. Gilbert is one of the focal points of newly-promoted defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer's aggressive defensive plan. It's a plan that had all eleven defenders within ten yards of the line of scrimmage at multiple points during the spring game, which allowed the Cowboys put pressure on the quarterback in a variety of ways that weren't even close to possible in last year's scheme.

Which leads to the next set of questions. What led to OSU's defense getting gashed down the stretch last season? Were they too soft? Too vanilla?

It depends on who you ask when it comes to what answer you'll hear around Stillwater, and while the aggressive style of Spencer's looks to be here to stay for the season, there are still times to use that cushion.

But at the end of the day, the philosophy is certainly different for the men in orange, and if Saturday was any preview of things to come, opposing quarterbacks should certainly be warned of what's coming.

"It's different," Gundy said. "Our philosophy has changed. We just wanted to be in closer proximity in the passing game. I thought in the last few years, we were limited in our ability to rush the quarterback. Our defense has worked hard at that."

That has to make guys like Gilbert, who has promised another great year this fall, happy to hear. Especially since he and a few others are the key to making that defensive motor run efficiently.


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