Tim Castille, 6-1, 231, fits the mold of what Alabama Coach Mike Shula wants in a fullbacka man who can block for the run, is intelligent enough to pick up the blitz in pass protection, can run the football and catch the football.
Last year Castille had only eight rushes for 33 yards, but two of those eight runs were for touchdowns. Shula said, "Our fullback doesn¹t really carry the ball a lot, but he has to be able to catch passes." Castille had 21 catches for 129 yards last year. (But halfback Shaud Williams had 24 pass receptions for 161 yards.)
If Castille hadn¹t been the only true freshman starter in 2003, Le'Ron McClain would have been. McClain, now a bruising 6-1, 255, got off to a slow start because he was not academically cleared to play until after Bama was about halfway through fall camp. Indeed, McClain did get one start, against Kentucky, and he played in 11 games with 180 snaps. It¹s pretty obvious what McClain¹s job was: he had only one carry, for one yard, and two pass receptions, for 35 yards, all against Kentucky.
One of Bama¹s most valuable walk-on players is also one of the Tide¹s toughest and most talented. It may be difficult for Josh Smith, a 5-11, 221-pound senior, to get much playing time at fullback unless Castille makes a permanent move to halfback, but Bama coaches would not hesitate to play him. He is a nifty, dependable runner who is valuable on the scout team even if he doesn¹t play on Saturdays.
It was no huge surprise when Nic Luke, a little-used fullback who wished to be a tailback, elected to transfer from Bama following spring practice. The brother of former Tide receiver Triandos Luke, Nic had only a handful of snaps and no statistics in his first two seasons and did not make a strong push for playing time in the spring.
EDITOR¹S NOTE: This is one in a series of essays on what Alabama might reasonably expect from each position in order to have a successful 2004 season.