Castleman Leads A Strong Defensive Line

STILLWATER - The routine was changed up a little on Monday morning as the Cowboys hit the Sherman Smith Center and practice fields in full pads for the first of two practices and the first of three two-a-day practice days this week. Besides the two-a-days, the practice itself had some changes including an early full speed team period of ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos.

That always gets the blood flowing early in a practice and gets the coaches charged up as well. Special teams got a good look early with kicker Ben Grogan having a sharp, accurate day and work on kickoffs and kickoff returns.

One area that hasn't been brought up much so far in practice reports here or anywhere else that we've seen has been the defensive line. The defensive tackles and ends are complete with frontline experience and depth. It is a strength on this team and that has been reflected in practices so far in camp including today.

"I thought today was pretty good. Coach Gundy has been stressing to the guys that this is a critical week," defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements said. "It’s our last week of training camp, and it’s a good opportunity to have some two-a-days with school starting next week.

"I thought the guys came out pretty enthusiastic today. They had yesterday off, so they were a little fresher today. I think it was a pretty good start to the week."

One player that should have been extra fresh was defensive tackle and possible all-conference and even All-American candidate James Castleman.

Castleman was absent from the scrimmage on Saturday, excused to attend a wedding. Of course, if anybody is okay with missing a scrimmage it is Castleman as he has earned his leadership and playing stripes. But ask him and he'll tell you he needs to do more.

"He’s been around the longest and had the most snaps, so he is having to step up his role and leadership this year," Clements explained. "It’s not just a matter of him playing well. He’s also got to be a leader for that entire front and our defense. I’m pleased with what he has done so far."

While Castleman would be like a senior officer on this defensive line his fellow starting defensive tackle Ofa Hautau, in his second season out of Snow Community College in Utah, and defensive end Sam Wren, a Texas native that came to Stillwater from Arizona Western C.C. in Yuma, would be the next in line. Both are seniors in their second seasons as Cowboys.

"It’s tremendous, both with Ofa and Sam Wren," Clements said of the improvement in year two. "A lot of times with the junior college players, they’re just trying to hang on that first year. You get a little bit of productivity out of them, but after they’ve been with the program for a year, you really see the level of play skyrocket a little bit. I think that’s the case with both of those guys."

As fans and observers a lot of us are waiting to see what guys Like defensive end Vili Levini (6-3, 275) and defensive tackles Vincent Taylor (6-3, 295) and Ben Hughes (6-3, 310) can do. That trio represents the new just as defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah with four sacks, Jimmy Bean with 4.5 sacks, defensive tackle Eric Davis, defensive end Trace Clark, and defensive end Victor Irokansi are well respected hands in the defensive front.

"They’re still inexperienced, and they haven’t had any game time yet, so all these practice reps and any time they’re in a live situation are going to be critical," Clements said of Levini, Taylor and Hughes. "I’m pleased with all three of them, but you really don’t know until you know. We just want to work, continue to get better and hopefully be ready come Florida State."

On offense, the position most like defensive line is wide receiver. The Cowboys have a bunch of them. Freshmen like James Washington and Chris Lacy have also shown they have the ability to help the likes of Jhajuan Seales, Marcell Ateman, Austin Hays, Brandon Sheperd, C.J. Curry, David Glidden, and the rapidly emerging Ra'Shaad Samples at the slot.

A name not to forget is former Edmond Memorial All-State performer and NEO A&M all-conference standout Kameron Doolittle. Now 5-8 and 200 pounds, Doolittle is getting lots of reps with the first and second offenses. He brings a sound blocking ability with his size and strength.

"Yes, I love to block and that is a big part of my game," Doolittle said after the scrimmage on Saturday. "I will do whatever they need me to do including special teams to get on the field and help this team."

"I think Kameron is going to help us a lot," receivers coach Kasey Dunn added. "He was having some problems adapting last season, but he has moved past that now and he is doing all the things we need him to do and doing them well. I have no doubt that he is going to make some critical plays for us at some point this season, maybe a lot."

Doolittle had Division I scholarship offers coming out of Edmond and he admits it has been a long road and one that has been trying at times. He has matured and has his football, academics, and everything else in order.

He is ready to do whatever it takes to help Oklahoma State have success. That success is his success. It is almost appropriate to praise Doolittle right now on the heels of Mike Gundy putting three walk-ons on scholarship. Doolittle is a senior this fall, but he could certainly get his scholarship reward on the back end as he could be a good candidate to pick up a scholarship in the spring semester.

The Cowboys finished the day with a second practice, this one in helmets and shorts. One coach was missing as head coach Mike Gundy was in Tulsa for the final Cowboy Caravan leading into the school year. Gundy and baseball coach Josh Holliday spoke to the crowd of Oklahoma State fans at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.

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