Gilbert looks to continue kick return success

Oklahoma State return man Justin Gilbert hasn't scored off a kickoff this season. Savannah State, Arizona and Louisiana don't know the feeling of watching No. 4 streak into the end zone in 2012. But there has been one group that's witnessed Gilbert's unique return talents result in touchdowns this year.

Just ask the Cowboys who watch and participate in special teams drills during practice. How many times has Gilbert taken it to the house since fall camp?

"I have no idea," Gilbert said. "It's been quite a few, but I can't remember the number."

OSU wide receiver Josh Stewart knows Gilbert is being humble with that estimate.

"It's probably a higher percentage than not returning them," Stewart said. "You see him hit a hole, the stride he has, nobody is going to catch him."

But practice touchdowns mean nothing. Gilbert knows that. And while there's nothing to panic about three games into the season, he said taking one back against Texas for his first of the season would be ideal.

"Most definitely," Gilbert said. "Especially at home, I think I can try to get one and take it to the house. Against Texas, a team everyone wants to watch, I think it would be a good time to do it."

Despite not taking a return to the house yet this season, Gilbert is still one of the premiere players in the nation at his position. His 29-yards per return average ranks No. 21 in the nation and his four career return touchdowns put him in a tie for first place.

That comes as no surprise for Stewart.

"If you ever see Justin Gilbert in the weight room, he's a strong guy," Stewart said. "To go with his speed, he's just one of those freak athletes that you've got to have on your team. That's him."

Gilbert said his mentality when returning kicks is simple – secure the ball, make the first guy miss and go from there. He doesn't have to take it back every time, but strives to get to at least the 35-yard line.

But still, the shoe-string tackles that have prevented return touchdowns have been frustrating this season.

"It's an almost-had-him, I knew I could have made that guy miss, feeling," Gilbert said. "But as long as it's a good gain, then I know our offense can drive the rest of the way and score a touchdown. That's the most important thing."

It would be fitting for Gilbert to get his first return touchdown of the season against Texas on Saturday. Last season in Austin, he took a 100-yard return to the end zone that helped the Cowboys seal a 36-28 victory.

Stewart said it's only a matter of time before opposing teams know the pain of watching No. 4 streaking downfield for a score this season.

"It will come soon enough," Stewart said. "They've kicked it to (Gilbert), but he hasn't gotten the opportunity he wanted. But there's no way he's going the whole year without returning one, no way."


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