McCain staking claim on Auburn’s line

Published 11:27 pm Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Andrew McCain made a name for himself during his football career at Briarwood Christian School. Now, as a senior offensive lineman for the Auburn Tigers, he has an opportunity to do the same as a starter in the Southeastern Conference.

The North Shelby County native signed with the Tigers in 2005 as one of the top rated high school recruits in Alabama. Shortly after arriving on the Plains, McCain found himself directly in the mix as a defensive tackle, appearing in five games and tallying his first sack against Ole Miss.

It was former head coach Tommy Tuberville’s forte to shift linemen. He often did it to fill a need or establish depth at certain spots in the trenches. Unfortunately for McCain, he was in the thick of the shuffle and given a redshirt in 2006 to get acquainted with his new position.

“When you’re at a level where everything moves so fast, it’s frustrating because you want to improve,” McCain said of the struggles of switching positions. “It can weigh on you when you find yourself in your third position in one year.”

“While it was frustrating, the goal was to always do whatever would make the team better. That’s where Coach Tuberville wanted me at the time, and I just tried to do everything they asked me to do,” he added.

When the Gene Chizik era began in December of 2008, it was evident that change was on the horizon for the Tiger football team. Every player with an Under Armour jersey was given a clean slate — an ‘orange and blue’ opportunity for McCain.

“Honestly, for me, it is a breath of fresh air. As a senior, it is motivating and encouraging because I feel like I can get in there and have a fresh start at proving I can play football,” he said. “I’m excited to have an opportunity to show what I can do.”

Jeff Grimes was hired in January to direct the Tiger offensive line and the “player’s coach” sees great things in his surging lineman.

“Andrew has done a great job so far. Actually, he’s probably one of our most improved guys on the offensive line,” Grimes said.

“He’s a really smart kid, which really helps, especially playing on the offensive line when there’s so much to know in terms of who to block and how to do it. He’s working really hard and getting after it every day. I couldn’t be more pleased with what he’s done up to this point.”

Locking down a starting spot has been a long time coming for McCain. If he can continue to have a solid spring and a productive summer program, he could very well emerge as the clear leader at the right tackle spot in the fall.

Sitting in the smoke-filled tunnel at Jordan Hare Stadium, awaiting his first collegiate start, will test the nerves for McCain. Yet, the feeling of accomplishment will have him ready to roll.

“There have been some ups and downs since I have been here, but to have the opportunity to earn a starting spot and be able to hold onto it, is very exciting,” McCain said. “It’s been a long journey of really hard work and it will be very rewarding to be able to step out on the field knowing I earned the right to help Auburn.”