Helping the team

Running backs Coach Sparky Woods wants to be three-deep at both running back positions, which means true freshman Tim Castille will have every chance to play.

The son of former Tide All-American Jeremiah Castille (‘79-'82), Tim Castille has clearly been raised right. "Tim works hard," Sparky Woods said. "He's gotten better every day. I don't know how he could have done any more than we've asked him to do.

"You've got to be careful what you tell him, because he's going to do exactly what you tell him."

Castille naturally wants a shot at the starting tailback job, but in the meantime he's willing to wait his turn and help the team at fullback.

What he's been told for now is that fullback represents his best chance to help the team, and the former All-State tailback willingly made the switch. "That's what I've got to do," Castille said. "I want to play, so if that's what they need me to do, I'll learn the position. I'll try my best at it."

Shaud Williams, Ray Hudson and Kenneth Darby provide plenty of talent at tailback. But Bama is dangerously thin at fullback. Woods explained, "We've got three pretty good halfbacks, so fullback gives Tim the chance to help our team the quickest.

"I think he can be a really good halfback as well, but I really am pleased with how he has accepted that responsibility to the team."

Greg McLain started at fullback in 2002, but he's been limited during fall camp. True freshman Le'Ron McClain may represent the future for the Tide at the position, but he's still waiting to be cleared academically.

That leaves Castille and walk-on Nathan Cox as Woods' only current options. And as he frankly admits, that's a problem.

"You need at least two fullbacks," Woods related. "Most teams travel six or seven running backs. If we do that, then right now every one of them would get to go."

McLain is expected back soon, but the past few days he's been limited to a coaching role. "Greg's helping me," Castille said. "He's been a little banged up, so I can go to him with questions. He's right near the huddle and can come over and tell me what I need to do or how I can do better. Greg's been a really big help."

Last year's starter at fullback, Greg McLain has been held out of recent practices.

At 6-0, 231 pounds, Castille is big enough for fullback. But he's never played there before.

"I think I've done okay," he said. "I've gotten my assignments down. But this is another level of football. You're going up against bigger linebackers than you do in high school. Adjusting to the strength of the linebackers and to a new position, fullback, is tough."

Castille is still adjusting to the role, but Woods has been pleased with what he's seen so far. "He's got good size; Tim learns fast," Woods said. "He's a football player."

During a five-year prep career (he played for his varsity as an eighth grader), Castille amassed 163 career touchdowns.

In high school Castille was his team's offensive star. For the past four years he's been the man toting the football, with his teammates blocking for him. "Blocking is the biggest adjustment," Castille acknowledged. "Handling iso-blocks on bigger guys. I played tailback in high school. I blocked a little bit, but it was mostly ‘help out' stuff. Handling the linebackers alone has been my biggest adjustment. I've got my assignments down pretty good."

A weight-room addict, Castille has never shied away from contact. But fullback requires a different sit of techniques.

Castille talks with Le'Ron McClain in the Tide weight room.

He explained, "I can run carrying the football and be the battering ram, but it's a different style. When you're at tailback you just lower your shoulder, and you can run through them. At fullback it's more technique. You've got to set them up, then get your blocking position for the tailback. It's a different type of running."

Changing positions--especially during your first college camp--is tough. But at this point Alabama needs him to make a two-back offense work. "It's a transition, and I believe I'm handling it pretty well," Castille said. "I'm getting reps under my belt. You come out to practice and try to get better every day. I think I'll be all right."

Next spring Castille definitely wants a shot at the tailback job, but for now he's content to do whatever is needed to help the team.

"He's an unselfish kid," Woods said. "He just wants Alabama to win."


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