Oklahoma State CB: Replacing Justin Gilbert 'an opportunity'

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DALLAS -- Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer didn't make the trip down to Big 12 Media Days, and it's probably a good thing he stayed home given how much work he has on his plate.

The Cowboys' 2013 two-deep depth chart on defense was, in many ways, decimated by offseason roster turnover, and all the team has to do is open the season against defending national champion Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. There's a huge hole in the secondary, as Oklahoma State's best cornerback from a season ago -- Justin Gilbert -- was selected eighth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Returning starter Kevin Peterson isn't thinking about any of that, though. In fact, the cornerback says he's not worried about having such a young defense. With a smile on his face and the confidence becoming of a top-flight cornerback, the Oklahoma native is even brushing off the thought of replacing somebody like Gilbert.

"I don't think of it as pressure, I think of it as opportunity," Peterson said Monday at Big 12 Media Days. "It can show what the team can do losing so many players because it's not just losing Justin, it's losing six or seven guys on defense. With all the young guys coming in being able to make a name for themselves, it's fun to see the opportunity you're going to have."

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior developed into a solid starter last year opposite Gilbert and picked off two passes to go along with six pass breakups. He's one of the few quality, experienced players returning for the Cowboys on defense, but Peterson said he has seen the secondary grow over the spring and summer into a unit that could surprise people when conference play rolls around.

"Ashton Lampkin is starting now and he's actually my roommate," Peterson added. "We've got a lot of young guys. You look everywhere and you don't see the same numbers when I got there. It's a lot of fun to be able to see young guys and then see them make plays."

However, head coach Mike Gundy is not quite as optimistic as Peterson, despite seeing some progress during the spring.

"We're not really deep at the safety position either," Gundy said. "We have to look at finding a way to put the best 11 players on the field on each play based on the team we're playing and trying to take away what we think the strength of their offense is each week."

It might be a tough task to fill all the holes on defense and replace a top-10 pick like Gilbert, but Oklahoma State will certainly try -- the team can count on Peterson to help in that effort.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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