James Castleman jumped into action on the Oklahoma State defensive line as a true freshman and has grown into a force up front, making 25 starts over the past two seasons.
Entering his senior year, the Amarillo (Texas) product is a major reason there’s optimism that a strong defensive line can provide an anchor to a rebuilding defense.
There’s a lot of talk about the defensive line emerging as the strength of the overall defense. How nice is that?
I mean, it’s nice to know that. I’m not really used to it. People usually talk down on the defense. What I hope is that people still do talk down on the defense. It feels good being able to be the underdog and prove people wrong.
If a defense is going to have a strength, the line is a good place to start?
Yes it is. I see a lot of good things. We’ve got Ofa (Hautau) and I in the middle, so we get a good push. And our defensive ends on the outside are getting faster and faster every day, learning how to use their hands and get around blocks and stuff. So I feel like our D-line is getting better and better all the time.
As you enter your senior season, what’s different about your game?
My game, I’m starting to be able to see the game and see the speed of the game and find little things here and there on the O-line, how the quarterback makes reads … And then to adjust my blocks and how they’re going to block me. I feel like I’m doing a decent job of being able to notice that little stuff.
Do you attribute that to experience or the game slowing down for you?
I attribute it to both, experience and things slowing down a little over time. I mean, it’s still a fast game, but it slows down in my mind. And that’s good.
What does Ofa Hautau bring as the replacement to Calvin Barnett?
Ofa brings a lot of power to the table. He’ll put his head in there and wreak some havoc. That’s what we need, to get explosive off the ball. And he’s not afraid to just jump into a pile, jump at someone. He’s not afraid to make a tackle. He’s not scared to do anything.
What do you sense is going on in the back seven behind you guys up front?
Every day, we get better in the back end. I watch them on film, and I see them getting faster. They may make a mistake one day, but the next day they have it fixed.