Where's Willie?

Almost every discussion of Mississippi State's defense starts with the Bulldogs' fine senior defensive end, Willie Evans. One of the most important tasks facing Alabama Saturday will be to know where Evans is and then try to get him stopped…or at least slowed down.

Alabama right tackle Kyle Tatum will have primary responsibility for blocking the 6-2, 270-pound Evans, who plays left defensive end for Mississippi State. "You have to know where Willie Evans is at all times," Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said following Wednesday's Bama practice. "He has done a good job. The quarterback has to get the ball out quick."

Alabama, 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference play, will be at Mississippi State Saturday. Kickoff in Starkville will be at 2:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by CBS. The Bulldogs of Coach Sylvester Croom are 2-6 overall and winless in five SEC games.

Alabama has a few injury issues as it prepares for Mississippi State, the most critical being a sprained ankle suffered by Tim Castille last week. Shula said Castille had been held out of practice again Wednesday and it would probably go up until Saturday gametime as to whether the junior would be able to play.

Castille (5-11, 236) is the back-up fullback and has also been the halfback in Bama's short yardage and goalline situations. Shula said that regular first team halfback Kenneth Darby (5-11, 205) would handle the short yardage work if Castille is not available.

"He's about a half a jumbo," Shula said. Bama calls its package of Castille running behind fullback Le'Ron McClain its "Jumbo Package."

Shula also noted that Bama has other packages, including two tight ends and using back-up fullbacks like Kyle Bennett or Will Denniston.

Bama has a few other injuries. Defensive back Lionel Mitchell, who has been out a few weeks after suffering headaches, continues to be held out. Shula said he had an MRI last week and they are awaiting results of that test. "We're taking it slow," Shula said.

Freshman defensive tackle Lorenzo Washington suffered a sprained ankle in Tuesday's work. "He'll be out for a while," Shula said. Washington is being redshirted this year. And Shula said that anyone who has not played and can be redshirted to this point will be held out "barring injury" to another player.

Wide receiver Ezekial Knight has been staying after practice and getting extra work on his own. Shula pointed out that Knight had been a late arrival last year as a freshman and fell behind and that the depth at the receiver corps prior to the injury to Tyrone Prothro had probably had an effect on Knight's play. Knight had his best game last week, three catches for 59 yards including a nifty reception on Bama's first drive for a touchdown. Shula said, "Everyone feels that as Zeke gets more opportunities, he's going to be better. He would be the first one to tell you that he needs to be more consistent."

Alabama was out in shorts, shoulder pads, and helmets for about an hour and a half. Shula said that Tuesday's practice had been "real good," and that in Wednesday's work "the energy was good, but the execution wasn't as good. The catching and throwing could be better. But we've had good work. Thursday we'll work on our down and distance stuff."


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