Spring Football Preview: Defensive Tackles

With so many players returning on both sides of the football it is defensive tackle that will need to gain the most answers in spring football. BStarters James Castleman and Ofa Hautau finished their careers in the Cactus Bowl and as their understudies begin the audition to take over their spots next week that duo Thursday will be involved in the biggest audition of their lives on OSU's Pro Day.

Meanwhile, a small group of returning players, some very inexperienced, and one talented junior college transfer will spend the 15 workouts the NCAA allows in the spring attempting to show the Cowboys defensive staff -- especially defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and graduate assistant for the defensive line and former NFL player Eric Henderson -- that they are ready to handle those two very important inside positions on the defensive line.

The Cowboys are primed with so many returning players to be very good in 2015, but good play at defensive tackle is vital.

Returning Starters

95 Vili Leveni, DT/DE, So., 6-3, 285
96 Vincent Taylor, DT, So., 6-3, 295
97 Eric Davis, DT, Jr., 6-3, 290
70 Ben Hughes, DT, So., 6-3, 310

Waiting to be Discovered
56 Motekaia Maile, DT, Jr., 6-4, 305
99 Trey Carter, DT/DE, RS-Fr., 6-4, 275

You'll notice some of our weights will differ from the spring roster on the Oklahoma State website and that is because we are going with some of our recent knowledge. Levini, who played some tackle last season, is north of 280 pounds and quite capable of holding his own inside. It would not surprise us at all if the two starters emerging from spring were Levini and newcomer Matekaia Maile, who is a very deceiving 307 pounds.

We list Trey Carter at both positions and on both previews but he is every bit of 275 pounds and looking like he will be bigger.

It is the old Miami (Hurricanes) philosophy of moving safeties to linebacker, which Oklahoma State often does with the "star" position, and move linebackers to defensive end, which hasn't happened much lately, but then defensive ends to tackles looks like it will work out fine.

Also, note that the 6-4, 307-pound Maile played both defensive end and defensive tackle at Tyler J.C. last season. I witnessed that in person in a win over NEO at Rose Stadium in Tyler. He split time roughly 50/50 at the two positions.

Leveni finished last season with 4.5 tackles for loss. Vincent Taylor is very active inside and we project him to easily be part of the two deep, if not a starter.

Eric Davis, who played in five games last season, and Ben Hughes are the two players that will have to improve the most to make the two deep, but both are capable. Davis has experience and knows what is expected and Hughes is a former power lifter who is very strong and used the right way could put him in the mix.

Carter is big and athletic and should not be counted out. There are two primary high school signees coming in the summer: Taaj Bakari and the well-lauded Darrion Daniels, and both would like to play as a freshman and could get a legitimate shot at it.

There is no doubt that Castleman and Hautau helped the defensive ends this past season as those two were powerful inside. This fall the defensive ends may have to reciprocate for the young tackles, but if things go well, it may not be long before those tackles are holding their own.

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