"When I go home people ask me where I'll be playing next year," Greg McLain related to BamaMag.com this week. "Right now their guess is as good as mine.
"If the coaches move me to the defensive side of the ball, I'll play there. No problem."
One of only two true freshmen to see action last season, McLain isn't bothered by the speculation. "Everybody asks me the questions, but I don't get tired of them," he said. "I take it as a big compliment. I came in as a true freshman and played fullback. (The coaches) could have moved someone else, maybe one of the linebackers. But they picked me out of all the guys. It's a compliment."
When injury left the Tide without a blocking fullback, McLain stepped in and finished 2002 listed first on the depth chart at the position. For the season he played in 12 games, starting six. He had 19 carries for 81 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per rush. He also caught three passes, but his main value was as a lead blocker.
Under new Head Coach Mike Price, the traditional blocking fullback position essentially doesn't exist. So McLain spent spring practice working (and doing very well) at tight end. "I was recruited as an athlete out of high school, so I believe I can play on either side of the ball right now," he said. "For the time being I'm still at tight end. Until I hear different, I'll be concentrating on learning the offensive plays and being a good tight end this fall."
No question the tight end will be an important part of Alabama's new pass-first attack. But besides McLain the Tide has several talented athletes at the position, including Clint Johnston, David Cavan and Donald Clarke.
On the other hand, the recent loss of Todd Bates to suspension and continuing questions regarding the status of Nautyn McKay-Loescher have fans worried about depth on the D-Line. Could another move been in McLain's future?
"I'll do whatever is best for the team," McLain stated flatly. "But right now the coaches haven't said anything to me about it. I'm willing to play anywhere to contribute to the team. I made the transition last year from linebacker to fullback. Then I went from fullback to tight end. I can move again."
"I look at (changing positions) as an adventure," McLain continued. "You've got something different to do. Some guys play the same spot over and over. Moving around can be fun. It doesn't matter to me. So long as I get to play somewhere."
Listed at 6-2, 246 pounds, McLain has the frame to add weight quickly if needed. He commented, "My teammates always kid me about playing on the D-Line, because of my weight. Back in the fall I was playing at 255 pounds. They kid me a lot, telling me I'm going to be a defensive tackle.
"‘You're just one biscuit away from D-Tackle.'"
The pride of Lineville, Alabama, McLain pretty much did it all for his high school team. A four-year starter, he competed in 55 prep games. Playing both ways his senior year he had 876 yards rushing and another 314 yards as a receiver. On defense he had 82 tackles, including four quarterback sacks.
Was there a position he didn't play in high school?
"I never lined up under center to play quarterback," McLain replied. "And I never played on the offensive line. But I pretty much played everywhere else--especially on the defensive side of the ball. There really wasn't a position hardly that I didn't play a lot in high school.
"You can't really do that in college, but whatever position (the Tide coaches) ask me to play, I'm happy to play it."
"No, wait," he recalled laughing. "I didn't play strong safety in high school. That would be a major transition for me. I did cover guys at corner a couple of times in high school, but never safety. (The secondary) would be a major transition for me. I'm not sure I could play back there with those guys."
The idea of a 255 pound defensive back was of course a joke. But with the Tide's present need for help at defensive end, McLain knows he could be on the move again.
And he frankly wouldn't mind at all.
"I enjoyed playing defensive end in high school," McLain said. "That was my first position I came in here playing as a true freshman. I played a bunch of D-End in high school, and I got used to it. For me that would be like moving back home. Putting my hand in the dirt again like I did in high school.
And if Defensive Ends Coach Paul Randolph approached him tomorrow about the move?
"‘Let's do it!' would be my reaction," McLain said. "I'm ready to play anywhere. This is my second year, and I've moved three times already. I'll just have to make the transition."
Randolph and the other Tide coaches are concentrating on recruiting, gearing up for the crucial May evaluation period. While the players, of course, are occupied with off-season conditioning. "I'm weighing about 245 pounds right now," McLain related. "I lost a little weight. I'm trying to take off a little more to run those pass routes. Now I feel fine running-wise. My footwork has improved from last fall. I plan to work this summer to get faster."
But if the call from the D-Line coaches comes in, McLain will be ready.
"Me being ‘one biscuit away from defensive end,' that's possible," he acknowledged. "But it just depends. Wherever the coaches ask me to play, that's where I'll be. That's just the way I am."