Back home in Fayetteville, N.C., Eric Mac Lain's friends used to tell him that he'd someday grow up to be an offensive tackle in the NFL.
Mac Lain had a better idea, however.
He loved catching the football, and so after starting out his prep football career on the offensive line, he dropped some weight, added speed, and became one of the nation's most highly-recruited tight ends.
Mac Lain still likes running routes and catching the football. But in assessing the needs of his team relative to his abilities and his long-term development, Mac Lain recently had another better idea.
On his own initiative, he approached Dabo Swinney about the possibility of transitioning from tight end to the offensive line.
"I texted Coach Swinney about it when Giff ( Gifford Timothy) hurt his knee," said Mac Lain. "We got together and talked about it, and they ran with it."
Eric Mac Lain talks transition from TE to OL
For now, Mac Lain is working both positions, splitting his time between Danny Pearman and Robbie Caldwell.
He said that in coming from a tight end background, he brings good footwork and athleticism to his new position.
“When you move him into the offensive line, his athleticism really stands out,” said offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
"As a tight end, I already know how to position block and pass block, and Coach Pearman has already taught me how to target every play," said Mac Lain. "The biggest difference is that I won't be running routes."
Putting on weight and adding strength will become Mac Lain's top priorities over the next nine months.
"I've been trying to maintain my weight (currently about 255) for a long time now, so I don't think it will be a problem for me to put on the extra pounds I'll need," he said. "We had a specialist come in and he said I could easily put on 40 pounds of muscle in the next year, so that would be exciting."
As a health sciences major, Mac Lain says he already has a firm idea of the nutritional side of targeted weight gain.
"With all the pre-knowledge, we're trying to do it the right way - we don't want me to just get fat right away," he said. "It's just a different balance of carbs and proteins that you take in...I can gradually raise my weight the right way...I think seeing what Phillip Price (who also converted from tight end to tackle) did gives me a good example."
He said his preparation also includes "watching film and pumping steel."
"It's almost like I'm redshirting again," Mac Lain said. "For me, it's just a matter of staying patient, with the ultimate goal in mind...This just seems like it's the best thing for me and the team, in the long-run."