Now a new starter must be found for that important defensive back position, one of three spots where there are openings in the secondary and one of seven defensive places where the 2005 starter has graduated.
During the spring, the one returning starter in the defensive backfield -- left cornerback Ramzee Robinson -- was held out of team contact work because of wrist and back injuries. As a result, Simeon Castille played much of the spring at left cornerback. But almost no one doubts that he will be the leader to replace Anthony Madison when Robinson is well and Bama returns to practice in August.
Castille, who was held out of Alabama's Cotton Bowl victory over Texas Tech because he had not performed to par academically last fall, was listed second team through much of the spring. He has worked hard in the classroom and is expected to be in good graces on that front.
Castille, 6-1, 188, is an upcoming junior. He started three games (as a nickel back) and played in all 11 regular season games last year. He had 28 tackles, four for losses of 27 yards. As a pass defender he had two sacks (24 yards), nine pass break-ups, and two interceptions. He also caused two fumbles and blocked a punt. He was the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his play in Bama's 17-0 win over Mississippi State when he had two tackles, an interception, and a blocked punt.
Castille had earned the Bobby Johns Most Improved Defensive Back Award following spring training in 2005. As a true freshman in 2004 he played in 11 games (missing one with a thigh bruise) and had 14 tackles, four pass break-ups, and two interceptions, which he returned 31 yards.
Simeon showed a little of his intensity in this spring's A-Day Game as he roughed up his brother, Tim, after the senior fullback grabbed a pass. That resulted in some not-so-brotherly love taps between the two before they were separated.
Nevertheless, Castille was second team in the spring. The number one right cornerback through spring practice was Eric Gray, a 5-11, 186-pound junior. Gray has been lauded by coaches since his arrival at Bama in 2003, when he was redshirted. Although he has been a back-up cornerback -- on th left side as a freshman in 2004 and on the right side last year --, most of his playing time has come on special teams. He played in eight games in both 2004 and 2005. He was Academic All-SEC in 2004.
Although left and right cornerback spots are somewhat interchangeable, Castille and Gray are likely to stay on the right side. Also listed as a right cornerback is Lionel Mitchell, who played in the Tide's first five games of 2005 before having to sit out the rest of the season with a head injury. He was fine in the spring and is expected to compete for playing time in the fall.
Castille and Mitchell are both the sons of former NFL players, Castille the son of Jeremiah and Mitchell the son of Stump.
Editor's Note: The 2006 starter is almost a sure thing at a number of Alabama football positions, mostly spots where starters return from Bama's 2005 football team that went 10-2. But one thing that increases the productivity of a team is having quality competition at every position. The Crimson Tide is not yet to that point, but there are positions where the battle is on. This is another in our look at the battle for positions for 2006.