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The top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 22

7/26/2013

We're counting down to the beginning of the season with the top 25 players in the Big 12. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing players from the bottom of the list all the way to No. 1.

Here's more on my criteria.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 22: Justin Gilbert, CB/KR, Oklahoma State

2012 numbers: Made 63 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Broke up nine passes and forced a fumble. Returned 32 kicks for 827 yards (25.84 yards per return) and a touchdown.

Most recent ranking: Gilbert was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Gilbert: Gilbert's tough season in 2012 was a step backward, but it didn't change that he's one of the most physically gifted corners in the league and should be able to bounce back in 2013. He played well in his first season as a starter in 2011, earning a reputation as more than just a speedy kick returner.

He still has those return skills and he's as fast as any player in the league, but coach Mike Gundy talked several times in the past year about his displeasure with Gilbert's performance. Gilbert has to be better this season if Oklahoma State's defense is going to take a step forward. He has some solid help at corner with Kevin Peterson, Tyler Patmon and Ashton Lampkin, but the Cowboys need their top-tier player to look like one. Based on pure skills, Gilbert is among the top three or four corners in the Big 12 with a chance to be the best. Last season, he didn't play like a top 10-15 corner. I'm betting he changes that this year, and he'll get plenty of chances to make his mark on the season in the kick return game, too.

The rest of the list: