Eric Mac Lain is a man on the move.
The redshirt sophomore's fast-track transition from tight end to the offensive line has taken yet another twist this week, with Mac Lain now working at right tackle behind Gifford Timothy.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said the move is designed to put some pressure on Timothy, while giving Mac Lain a chance to get onto the field.
Mac Lain spent most of the spring working at tackle, but then moved to guard for the beginning of preseason camp. He'll continue to cross-train, but for now is focused on the tackle spot.
“We worked him some at guard and we’ll continue to," Morris said. "That’s a different animal at that guard position right now, and we need him to focus on and stress Giff Timothy a little bit.”
Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell says he's thrilled with Mac Lain's development since moving to the offensive line.
"I'm very impressed with that young man - just tickled pink," said Caldwell. "It's a little different going from tight end to being in there where you're facing constant contact. You have to learn to work together - you're not on an island now. He's handled it well. When he has a rough day, the thing I like about him is that he'll want to go against that person again. I love that."
Mac Lain said the mix-and-match approach the coaches are taking with the backup offensive line means more versatility and opportunity for everyone.
"With the competition that we have, everything is up for grabs," Mac Lain said. "With the number of players we have, there are a lot of moving parts. We can plug in Reid Webster left or right, or at center. I can play guard or tackle. It makes everybody better because nobody has a chance to get comfortable.
"(Tyler) Shatley and Brandon (Thomas) pushed us really hard this summer to make sure that we were ready for our opportunity. No one's spot is definite."
Caldwell said he was able to give Mac Lain reps at guard in part because of the weight he added during the off-season.
"He has the bulk to do it - he's over 300 pounds right now, and looks sleek. I've been thrilled with his development," said Caldwell. "I think he started out at about 255. Of course, he was dieting to stay at tight end."
Caldwell said Mac Lain's move has been a good one, both for him and the Tigers.
"Eric knows this, and it's a compliment rather than a slight in my world, but he's a little slow for a tight end," Caldwell said. "But he's a fast, very athletic tackle. He's a fast guard. I want him to have the opportunity to compete for a starting position - not just to play.
"We put him at one spot in the spring. When we first got him at the end of the fall, we had him doing everything. That was unfair, because he didn't know any of it. So we agreed that for the spring we'd just put him at one spot, and let him learn that and get his feet on the ground. Then this summer, we told him that he a chance to be one of the top five, so to get in there and learn to play guard, as well. We diversified. Doubled his opportunity."
Mac Lain said the transition has involved becoming a more physical player.
"As a tight end, you have to know every pass route, every protection, and every run play," he said. "It's a lot more mental. Now it's more physical. You're constantly pounding every day.
"I've come a long way since spring. I feel like I know the offense now and am a lot more fluid with it, and that lets me really concentrate on my technique."