"He looks a little advanced athletically," said Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning. "I've been impressed with him."
Last year's starter at fullback, heading into fall camp Lowe was listed No. 2 at the hybrid W position, backing up senior Theo Sanders. Lowe had suffered three concussions during his Tide career, the most recent just months ago during spring practice. Following medical advice he made the decision to give up football.
"Losing Donnie will hurt, because we had a steady rotation," Sanders said. "He and I worked back and forth, but he had to quit for medical reasons. We moved up a freshman linebacker, Greg McLain, to fullback. We're working with him every day to get him prepared to learn the position.
"We'll need him to help us out."
McLain worked at linebacker and tight end before the veterans joined practice, but the Tide coaches talked to him about the move Friday. "They asked me if I wanted to play (fullback)," McLain related. "They said it was my decision. They weren't going to make me play it. I told them I'd play it if it was good for the team. It doesn't matter to me. I just want to be able to contribute to the team."
In high school McLain was pretty much a do-it-all athlete, at one time or another playing linebacker, defensive end, fullback, tight end and wide receiver. An effective runner, receiver and blocker, McLain is needed now at fullback. "He did a good job in practice," Koenning said. "You saw him catch the football, and come out of the backfield. He was very impressive. I haven't had a chance to watch him in the isolation drills, iso-blocking on the linebackers. But I watched him on the zone stuff and the option stuff and he looked real smooth.
"He's got all the tools to play the position."
McLain impressed his teammates as well. "For him to be just now learning the offense, he's catching on pretty quick," Sanders said. "He's got good speed, he's physical and he's got great hands. He's learning pretty fast.
Despite a communication mix-up, McLain committed quickly to Alabama when a scholarship was offered. At the time it was considered possible--even likely--that he would be asked to delay his entry into The University until January of 2003, but those thoughts seem far away now. "It's a chance for playing time (this year), but only if I work," McLain said. "If I work, then I feel good about my chances.
"It all depends on me and what I want to do."
Nicknamed "Moose" by his teammates in high school, McLain played both ways his senior season. That year he had 876 yards and 16 touchdowns running the football, while adding 12 receptions for 314 yards and two TDs.
"I like (the new position)," McLain said. "I started off my sophomore year playing fullback. Just learning the plays is the hardest part. Being in the right place at the right time. It's an adjustment, coming over from linebacker to fullback.
"It's a big adjustment, but I played it in high school, so I'm familiar with it. I can catch the ball a little bit. I had a couple yards receiving in high school and a couple of touchdowns."
Every bit as intelligent as he is gifted physically, McLain proved his football savvy Saturday by the company he kept.
All day long at practice and even during breaks, the youngster stayed as close to veteran Theo Sanders as possible. "I'm trying to help (McLain) out, trying to help him learn as much as he can," Sanders said. "He has a lot of questions about formations, where to line up and what to do. I'm an older guy. I'm just trying to lead him and show him what to do. Get him on the right path so we can hurry up and get him on the field.
"I guess I'm adding assistant coach to my responsibilities, trying to help him learn the offense. I know it pretty well. I'm trying to get him to follow so he can catch up and replace Donnie."
"Theo is a great leader," McLain added. "He's helping me out a whole lot. Everybody is trying to help me out a lot. They're helping with the plays and telling me where I need to go."
At the beginning of fall camp almost everyone (including McLain) was predicting a redshirt season for the Lineville native. But at this point he could well be the one newcomer most likely to play as a true freshman. "There's a chance for early playing time," McLain acknowledged, "just as long as I work hard. Fullback or wherever, I don't care where I play.
"I can do it."