During Bama's brief spring fling with the one-back offense, Greg McLain worked exclusively at tight end. But it's an open secret that new Head Coach Mike Shula has been looking for a fullback, and McLain will be that man. "Tight end was my position in the spring," McLain told BamaMag.com in an interview last Monday. "But I can go back and forth, depending on the game plan."
To the casual eye McLain will look very much like a traditional fullback this season. But reminiscent of the Tide's use of a ‘W' back in 2002, McLain will be called on to play several roles. "If they break the ‘I' (formation) I can drop down to tight end. The position is sometimes in the backfield, sometimes a tight end and sometimes split out. The coaches plan on me being very versatile right now.
"I've got a lot to learn how to do."
Of course McLain is already familiar with the fullback position. As one of only two true freshmen to see action last year, "Moose" played in 12 games, starting six. And blocking fullback was his principal role.
A spring report from a not-so-secret Red Elephant Club meeting revealed that concussions were an issue for McLain. In fact a collision versus Vanderbilt sidelined him for the second half of that contest. But because of a policy against discussing injuries, few fans were aware of the problem.
"Some people knew about it," McLain said. "I came out for the second half and sat on the sideline with a towel on my head. Some people thought I had a neck injury, so people were calling my mom. It was kept quiet, and I actually played the next game. I felt good enough in practice that following week.
"You know how it is with injuries. The head coach won't talk about it, and I just kept quiet and didn't say anything."
Playing football at any position can be dangerous if an athlete is prone to concussions, and that's especially true for a blocking fullback. But McLain says he's been checked out and cleared by the medical staff. "I don't think concussions will affect me that much," he said, "so long as I play with my hands and keep my head out of the way. Of course I've still got a lot to learn; this is only my second year playing."
But having only one player available at a position is barely better than having none. So who else will provide help at fullback?
McLain commented, "Clint Johnston played there a lot this past season. He played some when I didn't get into the game. Clint can handle the position.
"We've also got LeRon McClain, who is going to come in and help us out a lot--if he can get eligible. I don't know who else will be moved. It's a matter of who can get in and contribute."
McLain said that fall camp is closer than people think, but thanks to Head Strength Coach Ben Pollard the Tide players will be prepared. "‘Coach P' is going to have everybody ready physically," McLain said. "If you're not ready physically, then you're in trouble because this is the SEC. You've got to be ready when you play for Alabama."
As Bama's only returning fullback, McLain is one of the more valuable members of the squad--an irony not lost on the player who at one time was deemed not good enough to report in the fall with the rest of last year's class. "I was underestimated coming out of high school," McLain said. "I was recruited as an athlete. Many schools didn't know where I fit. But I ended up at Alabama, which is what I wanted."
Given his early production ahead of almost every other member of the 2002 signing class, McLain would certainly be justified in saying "I told you so."
But don't hold your breath waiting on that one.
"I'm just taking advantage of every situation they give me," was as far as McLain would go. "I wasn't even supposed to be there in the fall. I was supposed to wait and come in January. But somehow God worked it out for me. I got the scholarship and came in and played from the beginning. Hopefully this year things are going to continue."