Spring Practice: Pro Day Is A Reminder

What do we always like to say, the numbers don't lie and neither does that eye in the sky. With the latter, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements are watching video of Oklahoma State's early spring practices. Even though the pads have yet to come on, they can tell a difference up front at defensive tackle without James Castleman and Ofa Hautau on the field.

The numbers are these, 75 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, and four blocked kicks. That's what Castleman and Hautau accomplished inside at defensive tackle where numbers don't come easy and you have to win a fistfight or two to make a tackle.

As the Cowboys go through just their second spring practice, Castleman and Hautau are on the eve of making their best impression on the NFL folks at Pro Day on Thursday morning, and Spencer and Clements are left looking for their replacements.

"We talk about it, it's wide open," Spencer said. "Hopefully, we can find some guys that can play. You know I can't say right now that I've got a guy that can play in a Big 12 defense and do what I expect from them, and do what Joe Bob (Clements) expects them to do. From day one that is going to be a position that we study a lot on film."

The coaches aren't the only ones anxious to find the next good pair of defensive tackles and solid back-ups in the Cowboys defense. Nobody had a better view of the job that Castleman and Hautau did the last two years than middle linebacker Ryan Simmons.

Simmons numbers last season (96 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and two sacks) indicate that the two guys in front of him deserve an assist on most of those numbers. He's anxious to see how the spring goes and who shows up.

"Yes, I'm not going to lie, but at the same time the guys that are here have played (some)," Simmons said. "They've been in this system and they know what they need to do, so there is not much doubt.

"They are going to get better and they will practice hard like we want to practice. They will get a lot of reps and the more they get the better they will get by game time."

Vili Leveni played a lot last season and is strong and athletic. Junior college transfer Motekaia Maile is a 307-pound tackle that looks like he weighs 260.

A redshirt freshman we thought might have grown to tackle size may not quite be that big yet.

"Trey (Carter) will be at end, but Vili is a full-time tackle, so you try to find you four or five guys in there and he has a little game experience on everybody," Spencer detailed going through personnel at tackle.

"Mote (Maile) will have a shot, Vincent (Taylor), Eric (Davis), and Ben (Hughes) but at this stage nobody is so that we can roll them out there and I will think that we are going to take care of business. It will be a big challenge."

Defensive tackle will be the most important development on defense this spring as starters, even multiple starters, are back at every other position. Now if you would just tell me that all of those candidates from Vili to Ben Hughes are going to play with the same intensity and effort that Castleman and Hautau did in their career then I'd be good, Simmons would sleep easy, and Spencer would enjoy the rest of the spring that much more just grading which players have the most talent. Tackle is an effort job.


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