The Eagles may have their top three cornerbacks set for this season, but their depth and future at the position is in question. While Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh are special teams players that can play cornerback in a pinch, the Eagles need to have guys they can rely on behind Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert could be a good depth cornerback and easily a future starter for the Eagles if they decide to address the position early in the draft.
A Texas high school quarterback and cornerback prospect, Gilbert committed to Oklahoma State. He played as a true freshmen, leading the Big 12 with 26.9-yard average on kick returns and had two returned for touchdowns. He was mostly limited to special teams as a freshman but did get snaps on defense, finishing his first year with 18 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
As a sophomore, Gilbert continued his brilliance on returns and got more playing time on defense. He again led the Big 12 with 27.0 yards per return and had two for touchdowns. He finished his first season as a starter on defense with 59 tackles (one for loss), 10 pass breakups and five interceptions in 13 games. His junior season was also successful with a kick return average of 25.8 yards and one touchdown. He also collected 63 tackle (two for loss), a forced fumble and nine pass breakups.
Gilbert continued to become a top defensive back and returner in the Big 12 as a senior. On defense, Gilbert produced 42 tackles, seven interceptions and six pass breakups, which led to him being anointed a consensus All-American and a first-team All-Big 12 selection. He also won the 2013 College Football Performance Award as the nation's top defensive back. He also averaged 25.2 yards per kick return and took back another for a score. His sixth kickoff return for a touchdown is the Big 12 Conference record.
At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Gilbert is a tall cornerback. He has long arms and uses his size in coverage. A talented returner, Gilbert has terrific change-of-direction ability and solid hips. He plays loose and is physical in coverage. A play-maker, Gilbert had 12 interceptions in his college career. He is very opportunistic when it comes to turnovers. He will take advantage of mistakes.
Gilbert is tough and is a willing tackler. He was sent on blitzes at times and make plays in the offensive backfield. He has no problem being physical with tall wide receivers and can defend the jump ball very well. He is an electric returner with the ability to break tackles and set up his blocks (very) well.
Gilbert is a more of an athlete than a technician. He is not very quick in recognizing run plays or reacting to them. He plays a bit too loose at times, which allows for catches. He is a willing tackler, but does not use good technique. He can easily be blocked in the run game. Gilbert can be a bit hesitant on routes. He gives a bit too much cushion on intermediate routes.
Gilbert is a talented player that would make sense for the Eagles. He would likely upgrade their return game on special teams and provide good competition for a starting spot. While he needs some work on his game from a technical standpoint, the Eagles have player in place that can give him time to learn. He would likely be the fourth cornerback and the starting kick returner for the Eagles, but they would probably have to take him in the first round. He has the size and speed that the coaches like as well as the versatility. The Eagles could look to turn him into a free safety.
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