August 27, 2007

McClain on the 'Mike'

A year ago, Rolando McClain was a star at Decatur High School. Now the 6-foot-4, 255-pound inside linebacker is about to see his star rise even higher.

Since arriving at Alabama for the start of fall camp, McClain, rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama in the class of 2007, has been competing for a starting job at both of the Tide's inside linebacker spots, seeing plenty of snaps with the first team well into the final days of camp. Head coach Nick Saban's decision to suspend last season's starting middle linebacker Prince Hall has thrust the true freshman into the spotlight and earned him a spot for at least one game as a starter on the Crimson Tide defense.

"He's done a good job and he's earned the position that he's in," said Saban. "So, regardless of how confident we are, I have confidence in him as a young man. He is a freshman. It will be a great experience for him. He's taken advantage of his opportunity. He's worked hard and he's earned the position that he's in. Regardless of where he is, he's the best player we have to do this right now."

McClain was one of the most versatile and multi-talented athletes in the state during his high school career, earning All-State honors at both linebacker and tight end as well as leading the Decatur High basketball team to the state semifinals. McClain's leadership skills combined with his natural abilities have made an early impression on the Tide upperclassmen.

"He's a man to be so young," said junior center Antoine Caldwell. "He's picked up everything surprisingly fast. I guess Coach Saban has kind of made him do that. He's had to pick it up mentally but the guy is physically gifted. He flies around with a lot of energy. He's a real good football player."

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