James Castleman: His Coach's Take

GoPokes.com has interviewed the high school coach for each of the Oklahoma State commitments in the days leading up to National Signing Day on Wednesday. In this installment of "His Coach's Take," we visit with Amarillo High School head coach Mel Maxfield about James Castleman, a 6-4, 280-pound defensive tackle from Amarillo, Texas.

What are his strengths as a football player?
Mel Maxfield: He's got an incredible first step. He's very quick and real explosive with his initial movement. He has good instinct. Throughout his career and this year he blocks kicks, he bats balls, he intercepts passes. He always had a knack of coming up with a momentum-changing play. Whether we'd just turned the ball over or they had just made a big play, he just seemed to rise to the occasion and kind of squash the momentum. He's really a good team player. We played him in the middle of the 3-4 (defense) and there were tons of times he was triple teamed and a back would pick him up on the pass rush. As good as an individual talent as he is, I'm so proud of him for putting the team first and playing within the confines of a team concept. Sometimes, to be honest with you, triple teams weren't enough for him, and he still made his share of plays.

What do you believe will be his biggest challenge in going from high school to playing in the Big 12?
Mel Maxfield: I think any level you step up to is a different pace and the speed of the game will be the one thing ... and also the bulk that's involved up front at the D-I level. It seems like kids are just getting bigger and bigger, and stronger and stronger as the years go by. He'll be tough enough to handle that though. His instincts is going to allow him to expediate his development.

Was there one game, or maybe even one play, during his career that you'll always remember?
Mel Maxfield: The one that really stands out is unfortunately from the game we got beat in bi-district. The team had it fourth-and-inches and decided to go for it from deep in their own territory. It was a quarterback sneak and all they needed was four inches, but James just blew up everybody and we ended up throwing the quarterback for about a yard and a half loss. Unfortunately we couldn't take advantage of that great play.

What are three words that describe him as a football player?
Mel Maxfield: Explosive, instinctive, and team-first.

Why do you think he chose Oklahoma State?
Mel Maxfield: I'm not trying to put words in his mouth but in visiting with him and in counseling with him I told him to back off, pray about it a little bit and I think he got some of that same advice from some of his friends and supporters, and with that in mind I think he took some time to reflect and felt like at the end of the day that Oklahoma State was a better fit. I really believe this, if Stillwater had been an hour and 45 minutes away from Amarillo as Lubbock is, I think it would have been Oklahoma State all the way. I think the thing that caused the initial commitment to (Texas) Tech was probably the local and the ability of his family to get out to watch him play. I think that Oklahoma State did a great job of staying in contact but not pressuring him or hassling him. Coach (Glenn) Spencer recruits our area and I've had a chance to get to know him, and I've become more and more impressed with him. They did it the right way and the professional way. I think just the overall continuity that Oklahoma State has, of course the facility upgrades, they're coming off one of the better seasons they've ever had, they've got a lot of guys coming. There are a lot of ingredients there that make Oklahoma State appealing to a young man.

What type of impact do you expect him to have on the OSU football program?
Mel Maxfield: I don't know how long it's going to take him to catch up to the speed of the game there, but if it's anything like it was here in high school, which I know sometimes that's not the case but if it is, he'll walk away being one of the most well-respected kids that's ever gone through that program.

Over the course of his college career, whether it be four or five years, what do you expect him to accomplish?
Mel Maxfield: There are so many intangibles out there, there are injuries and sometimes there are position changes that are forced because of injuries or performance, but his attitude of doing what the team will ask to do ... I think the key to it is the kid that can adjust mentally more than the physical to the college scenario, and if he can do that I certainly think the sky is the limit. I may be biased on this but I think James has the ability to be an all-conference type performer, and I'm not ruling other accolades as well. I think he possesses that type of ability and I think Oklahoma State would probably give you the same commentary.

What will you remember the most about coaching him?
Mel Maxfield: Again this is kind of Mayberry-ish but he's an awesome young man. I've had the opportunity to watch him being recruited and how he tries including his teammates in the process, how he treats people ... that aspect is going to take him a lot further in life than his football career will because of the type of young man he is. James has been fortunate that he's got people that care about him and mentored him. I kind of got in on the back end of this deal but James has been nothing but great to coach, not only because of the obvious abilities and the plays he makes (on the football field) but just the type of young man he is.

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