Good to Have Backs

The smallish workout facility of Vanderbilt University notwithstanding, Bama fullback Tim Castille is looking forward to going to Dallas and playing in the Cotton Bowl. Come to think of it, so are a lot of Alabama running backs. Castille is among a host of Tide running backs glad to be healthy this time of year.

"I'm excited. I didn't get to play last year but I got to go up there and experience," Castille said. "I was training a little bit, but I'm going to be glad to be on the field. Last year when I was out I was rehabbing. I had just started to jog so they had me running and lifting weights at Vanderbilt. I wasn't even able to watch practice."

Last season of course, Castille tore his ACL knee ligament on October 23rd, Bama's eighth game of the year against Tennessee, and by the time Alabama played in the Music City Bowl he wasn't the only Tide running back lost.

Ray Hudson's season ended after Alabama's sixth game against Kentucky. Hudson had a breakthrough before his senior year and was fast on his way to a 1,000-yard season. Then Kenneth Darby took over.

Darby carried a combined 71 times against Mississippi State and LSU and his abdominal muscle had separated from his pelvis by the time the Music City rolled around. He carried the ball once in that game, and was used primarily to get in the way of Minnesota pass rushers.

Le'Ron McClain played in the Music City Bowl, too. He would line up at fullback in front of Aaron Johns on one play and then at tailback the next. He was playing on a very sore ankle.

What a difference a year makes.

Still feeling the effects of the surgery, Castille rushed for 102 yards on 39 carries, but he was invaluable as a pass protector and was laying some punishing blocks against the run late in the season. He said his knee has been "a little sore from the temperature change, but if I get warmed up it's alright. I'm not worried about my knee at all when I play. It's not a factor in my mind when I'm out playing now."

The running game figures to be a focus of Bama's New Year's bowl game. "We've actually been running the ball good against the first defense these past few practices," Castille said. "It's been said 10,000 times, but with everything those seniors have been through, to send them out 10-2 I think would be an honor for them and it will end us on a positive note for next year."

Head Coach Mike Shula said the junior running back is "doing real well, and he should figure in. He's really had a good week of practice, moving around good, catching it, running and blocking."

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