He just wants to play

Given his family background, it's not surprising that Tim Castille knows his way around a football field. More than most true freshmen, he understands that the key to playing early is being willing to fill a need. <br><br>"Tailback or fullback, whichever lets me get into the game and make an impact, then that's what I want to do," Castille said.

Tim of course is the son of former Tide great Jeremiah Castille, who now works with the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Tim grew up immersed in Crimson Tide football, and Bama fans have been looking forward to seeing him play for more than four years.

Some young players are wedded to one position, but Castille takes a different attitude. "With Coach Price Alabama had a one-back offense, so they were probably only going to use three or four (running backs). So if I wasn't in that top three, then I probably wasn't going to play. But with Coach Shula, I'm able to play either fullback or tailback."

Tim Castille spots for his father on the bench press. Tide fans remember Jeremiah Castille well as one of the greatest cornerbacks in Alabama history.

At this point, only Greg McLain returns with game experience at fullback. Tide Head Coach Mike Shula commented on the fullback position. "We're somewhat limited at fullback," he said. "When we got here, there really wasn't a fullback because of what they did in the spring. There were lots of wide receivers, but no fullback. We're going to look at the position carefully, but we won't force anybody. We've got to find out what our personnel can do."

The Tide tailback depth chart is stacked. Senior Shaud Williams, junior Ray Hudson and redshirt freshman Kenneth Darby all should contribute, which doesn't leave a lot of room for a true freshman. But those returning players are all more in the scatback mold. Castille brings a physical presence to running back.

"I'm weighing 230 pounds right now," Castille said. "I played tailback in high school, and that's what I'd like to do in college. I played at 225 last year with a bum knee. I'm changing my diet a bit right now, trying to trim some body fat off. If I lose weight, then fine. But if I don't it'll be okay."

One thing Castille has working in his favor is the coaching change. Shula and offensive coordinator Dave Rader both came on board following spring practice. Every player on the squad--seniors down to the true freshmen--will start off even in learning the offense.

"Everybody is in the same boat," Castille said. "Nobody knows much about the offense. That's going to help. It's huge for a freshman like me. The coaches couldn't do anything with us this summer, so it was up to us to do the work. It's how much you're willing to do the work. If you've been working all summer and some junior hasn't been working that hard, then you've got a head start on him. So that's huge."

How long has he been on campus? "I've been here since the beginning of the summer," he replied.

The Tide coaches are using the spring depth chart the first several days, which naturally puts Castille behind. But that will change soon. "We're taking a look at as many guys as we can these first few days," Shula said. "By the end of this week we'll zero in on the players we think can help."

Castille listens to a reporter's question. Growing up the son of a famous player, he's better prepared than most true freshmen for the media attention.

It was just one practice, but Castille caught Shula's eye right off the bat. Asked to name some new players that impressed, he replied, "I thought Tim Castille stood out. He was moving very well out there."

So, Tim, what do you think of your chances to play this year?

"I really have no clue," he replied with a laugh. "I want to play. I'm trying to play. But if I can't, then I'm fine with a redshirt."

Castille was generally considered the top running back prospect in the state last year. Nursing a bad knee for much of the season, he still managed 875 yards and nine touchdowns. His senior production also included 22 pass receptions for 308 yards and one TD.

As most Alabama fans know, Castille has always caught the ball well. As a slender eighth grader he played for his high school varsity, catching 65 passes for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns. Briarwood went undefeated that year and won the state title.

Since then nature, combined with hard work in the weight room, have transformed his body into a big back. But the memory of that eighth grader catching passes still follows him. More than one Tide fan has suggested that if he isn't needed this season at tailback, why not play him at wide receiver?

"I laugh at that one," Castille said with a big smile. "Trust me; I'm not a wideout. I've got the same hands, but I can't run around like I did back then. I'm not quite the same athlete I was in the eighth grade."

Of course in the pro set favored by Mike Shula, the fullback is often utilized out of the backfield as a receiver. "I think my hands will help me at this level," Castille said. "I'm just looking forward to playing, no matter what position I play at first. Down the road I want to be a tailback, but I'm willing to play fullback."

What about Castille and his new head coach? With his father's history at Alabama, Tim has followed Tide football for most of his life. Had he heard much about Shula before he was named head coach?

Castille prepares to lift. Standing right at 6-0 and weighing 230 pounds, the gifted running back could play either backfield position.

"No," Castille said laughing. "I hadn't heard anything, really. I guess I was five years old when (Coach Shula) was playing, so I didn't know much about him. Just seeing him around and being around him some this summer, I can see he's a great guy. He's a guy I'm looking forward to playing for."

When Castille first became known to college recruiters, Mike DuBose was head coach at Alabama. Tim was mainly recruited by Dennis Franchione's staff, and he ended up signing with Mike Price. Far more than most, Castille understands the tough times Bama's program has gone through recently.

"We were at rock-bottom," he acknowledged. "But we can't focus on that. Now the season is coming around. These guys went 10-3 last year. They know how to win. We're looking to have a good year. We want to play well. Next year we'll be completely off our probation and be ready to go."

Does he worry about the probation? "I've put it out of my mind," Castille replied. "I'm here now. I've got four years to play. If they redshirt me this year, then the probation (and bowl ban) won't affect me at all. If I play this year, great. That still leaves me with three years to try to win the national championship.

"Three years is plenty of time for me."

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