In the single back offense of Mike Price and with the elimination of the fullback position, tight end was a natural fit for the big, athletic player with excellent hands and surprising speed.
"I think this offense is every tight end's dream," McLain said. "I'm ready to contribute from a new position."
Last season, McLain rushed 19 times for 81 yards and caught three passes for 10 yards. His longest play from scrimmage was a 25-yard thunderous run against Ole Miss that sent the Bryant-Denny faithful into frenzied cheers of "Mooooooose."
"People ask me why they always boo when I get in the game," McLain said. "I just say ‘No, they're calling me Mooooose.'"
Moose received his now-famous nickname at an early age playing baseball, where he towered over his much smaller teammates. "I played baseball when I was 12 years old and my coach started calling me that," McLain said. "I was the biggest kid on the team, so that's how I got the nickname."
Injuries this spring have limited his repetitions, but the coaching staff has high expectations for McLain at tight end, now working at his third position with the Tide in two years.
"I think he's real explosive and he can run pass routes effectively," Tide tight ends coach Sparky Woods said. "He's got a definite ability to get deep."
Tight ends will see a lot more duty as the depth at receiver is thin and more blocking will be required to compensate for the void created by the lack of a fullback in the single-back scheme. McLain looks forward to the challenge of both running more pass routes and becoming a force in both run and pass blocking.
"I like it a whole lot," McLain said. "I was originally recruited as an athlete and it doesn't matter where I play."
McLain has good size for a tight end and has excellent hands. Playing fullback last year, he was an excellent lead blocker. According to Woods, one of the main benefits of moving McLain to tight end is to try to keep McLain from suffering the concussion problems he endured last season. Former Tide fullback Donnie Lowe was forced to retire from football prior to last season after suffering from this same problem.
"I want our tight ends to be lineman first and receivers second," Woods said. "McLain is strong enough to be a great blocker from the line of scrimmage."
"As a tight end, he has some special things," Woods added. "He's just got to be a complete player at tight end."
Several nagging injuries hindered McLain this spring. "I think the injuries hurt his progress," Woods said. "But with this guy, anything's possible because he is so coachable."
McLain went into his freshman year expecting to redshirt, but played himself onto the depth chart in fall drills, giving the Tide a true load-bearer at fullback. "He must've been pretty good as a freshman to start at fullback," Tide head coach Mike Price said. "He's coming closer and he really can play, but it's taking him a bit longer because the time he missed due to injury."
In high school, Lineville's coaching staff took maximum advantage of Greg McLain's versatility and athleticism.
He was voted a 2A All-State selection after Lineville's 11-3 run to the state semifinals. "In high school on offense, I played everywhere," McLain recalled. "I lined up at fullback, halfback, tight end, flanker and split end."
At Lineville High School, McLain was a multi-sport sensation, playing baseball and football. As a high school athlete, McLain found himself a "Moose" of all trades, playing every position short of quarterback, on both sides of the ball to utilize his size, strength and athleticism.
On defense, McLain created havoc among the opposition as well, with 82 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles and a single fumble recovery.
"Oh yeah, and I punted," McLain said. "I played a lot of defensive positions too. I got to play defensive end, tackle and linebacker."
NOTE: It'll be interesting to see if McLain's words are prophetic. Equally adept on defense, McLain would go a long way toward solving Bama's depth problem at defensive end.