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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Q&A: Coach of 2014 OL Natrell Curtis

By Brandon Chatmon

With the addition of Mike Stoops and Tim Kish to Oklahoma’s coaching staff last year, the Sooners have spent more time recruiting in Arizona, and offensive line prospect Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) is another example of the Sooners’ attempts to gain ground in Pac-12 country.

Mountain Pointe defensive line coach Jeff Griffin talked with SoonerNation about Curtis’ strengths, weaknesses and versatility.

SoonerNation: At one point did you realize how special Natrell was?

Natrell Curtis
Class of 2014 offensive lineman Natrell Curtis has offers from schools from across the country.
Griffin: We figured it out when he enrolled as a freshman and was immediately moved up to the junior varsity team.

SN: What was it about him that stood out?

Griffin: Obviously his size, he’s a big young man (6-foot-2, 304 pounds) but he also was very capable of controlling that size. Back in the day, Natrell was a pretty good basketball player. He has great athletic ability, and the older he’s gotten we’ve started to realize that. When we saw him moving on the basketball court and the way he was able to move, we knew he was going to be pretty special.

SN: How will that help him at the next level, the basketball background?

Griffin: He has really good feet and basketball probably has something to do with that. Defensively, he’s really capable of playing sideline to sideline or hash mark to hash mark. For a kid his size, that’s pretty special.

SN: What position might be the best fit for him at the next level?

Griffin: Offensive coaches are going to say guard. I’m a defensive coach, so I’d say defensive tackle. It depends who you talk to. I like him on defense because physically he’s stronger than most of the kids he lines up against. And he can get off the ball very quickly and his ability to chase the ball down. If they run the ball away from him and the runner slows down a little bit, he wakes up surprised that a three-technique ran him down. That’s what I like most about Natrell, the fact he can chase the ball and run guys down on the sideline. And obviously that’s why the offensive guys like him because he can pull, come around and take out a force guy on the defensive side.

SN: What will he need to improve at the next level?

Griffin: In the weight room he’s really strong but he needs to improve his power clean and that’s just technique. That’s the lift that gives him that "get off the ball" -- the pop when he tackles someone.

SN: Where does he land among players you've coached, in terms of competitiveness?

Griffin: We just had Kenny Lacy sign with UCLA, the offensive tackle alongside Natrell. When we moved Natrell to the defensive side, he went right at him. Natrell has the attitude, the swagger about him that he doesn’t want anyone to whip him, and he takes it pretty personal when somebody does get the best of him. You have to have that attitude, and I think he’s going to be successful wherever he ends up going.

SN: Who has been recruiting him the most?

Griffin: We’re out here in Phoenix and Coach [Tim] Kish and Coach [Mike] Stoops were at U of A [Arizona] and we had a good relationship with them. Coach Kish has been on him pretty good. Arizona State and some of the schools on the West Coast really like him.

SN: How does the relationship with Stoops and Kish help you let Natrell know what those guys bring to the table, since OU doesn’t go into Arizona that often?

Griffin: That connection with those two guys and Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh, I think that will be a valuable connection. Coach Kish has been really good to our program about helping us with defensive ideas, and if anybody asks me, I’ve told both Natrell and Jalen Brown (Mountain Pointe's receiver who has an OU offer), when they walk by me, I start whistling "Boomer Sooner." I’m a Oklahoma guy. (Note: Griffin attended Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, Okla., and coached at Watonga High School in Watonga, Okla.)