Scouting the blue-chip corner

With blue-chip athlete Simeon Castille set to announce his decision tomorrow, it's a good time to take an in-depth look at his scouting report.

We've actually had the chance to see Castille in person three times, once as a sophomore and twice this year during Briarwood Christian's 5A state championship season. Two years ago Simeon Castille (6-1, 187, 4.5) was basically a cornerback-only athlete. But this year he did everything but fetch water for the Lions.

Deep safety and sometimes at cornerback on defense. Tailback and wide receiver on offense. Kick block unit, kickoff returns, punt returns, covering kickoffs and playing "gunner" on punts. Castille rarely came off the field this season.

"I wasn't in the game on placekicks," Castille said after a game with a laugh. "The coaches tried to give me the opportunities to make plays."

Castille said he had to stay in peak condition to handle the workload this past season.

Castille hardly ever left the field in crucial games this year for Briarwood.

"I've got to be, or I'd pass out playing so much," he said with a smile. "My coaches did a great job of keeping us in shape."

Castille went out of his way to praise the efforts of his teammates, crediting them with much of his success. But any observer could see that Jeremiah Castille's latest progeny was Briarwood's principal weapon.

Offensively, mainly it was a matter of "get Simeon the ball." Throw it to him at wide receiver, hand it off to him in the backfield, or toss it to him on a sweep around end. The idea was to get Castille to the edge, where his speed and athleticism gave him a chance to break it long. The Briarwood coaches even put a halfback pass in the playbook to showcase Castille's surprisingly accurate arm.

Lion Head Coach Fred Yancey explained. "We were just trying to find a way to get him the football, give him a chance to shake loose. He was our best chance to get instant points."

"Wherever I could help the team, that's basically where they tried to put me at," Castille said of his offensive play. "I kind of like playing receiver more, but then I can get the ball more playing tailback."

Utilized as a deep I-back much of the time on offense, Castille has good feet and excellent balance. Like the best athletes, he glides as much as runs. Castille has a way of making it all seem effortless. Even on the halfback-option pass, he got off a nice spiral right on the money.

Castille would like a chance to play some wideout in college, but this year opposing coaches made sure he stayed double-teamed at the position, limiting his ability to do much. On one play over the middle a poorly-thrown ball got him up in the air and turned around, exposing him to a blow from the defensive back. But Castille held on.

It's obviously not the best use of his talents, but on occasion when running back Castille was kept in to block a blitzer, he handled the task.

Though he was obviously valuable on offense, Simeon Castille's all-star future is on the other side of the ball.

He'd like a shot at wide receiver as well, but Castille knows cornerback is probably his ideal position.

"I really don't know what's his best position," Coach Yancey said. "Wherever we lined him up was a pretty good spot. But I do think he'll play in the secondary in college. Defensively, he's just a great player."

According to Yancey, this year Briarwood moved Castille to safety "because we needed his speed all over the field. A lot of times he saved the day."

Whether playing centerfield on long passes, or tackling the ball carrier that managed to get beyond the line of scrimmage, Castille was Briarwood's reliable last line of defense. He's not afraid of contact. On one attempted sweep attempt, Castille flew in from his safety spot to belt the runner to the ground. Late in that close playoff game, the B.C. Rain runner broke free down the sideline, but Castille calmly took the correct angle and pushed him harmlessly out of bounds.

Generally speaking, the opposing quarterback simply didn't "try" Castille on pass defense. On one play with B.C. Rain using multiple wideouts, Briarwood's coaches played man-to-man and walked Castille up on a blitz, which worked perfectly.

Taller and rangier than brother Tim Castille (who played fullback and tailback for Alabama this past season), Simeon has an instinct for playing pass defense. No less an authority than former Tide Defensive Coordinator Bill "Brother" Oliver has compared Simeon's coverage skills favorably with his father's.

Behind in the game and forced to go long, B.C. Rain attempted a deep pass that Castille easily intercepted to seal the win.

After disposing of a gritty B.C. Rain team by one point in the playoffs, Briarwood found the going easier the rest of the way to the title. They won the championship with a 31-7 victory over Russellville. "The games were close sometimes, but we found a way to keep winning," Castille said of the championship run. "I thank God for the victories. Getting that ring was all that was on my mind.

"I didn't think too much about recruiting until after the season."

Of course now that season is finished, and Castille said earlier this week that he was finally ready to put an end to the speculation. The entire Castille clan is in San Antonio this week, as Simeon practices for Saturday's U.S. Army All American prep all-star game.

Essentially every team around would have pursued Castille if they thought they had a chance. But after giving Virginia a long look, his decision has come down to a choice between the mind and the heart. SEC champion LSU is riding a huge wave of momentum right now, and Castille says he will pick between the Bengal Tigers and Crimson Tide.

What position does Simeon expect to play in college?

"I'm being recruited as a corner," he replied. "My (high school) coach wanted me to play safety this year. I prefer cornerback, but you know..."

Given his father's accomplishments as an All-America corner for Alabama from 1979-1982--and later success in the pros, some might assume Simeon would prefer another position.

Castille is set to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All American game January 3 in San Antonio.

They'd be wrong.

"There's no pressure," Castille stated flatly. "It's just a game. I do prefer cornerback."

And what about offense?

"If I get the chance, I'd love to play both ways in college," Castille said.

RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 22 players in February, anticipating that several will not become qualified. It's also possible that one or more players may be asked to delay entry into The University until the following January, counting against 2005 scholarship numbers, depending on how qualifying issues play out.

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