November 27, 2007

The Zoom Lens: Rolando McClain

Subject: Freshman middle linebacker Rolando McClain
Statistics: 15 tackles, 8 solo, interception (24-yard return).
Observations: Fittingly, McClain made the stop on Auburn's opening play, a 5-yard give to Brad Lester. Auburn tackle Lee Ziemba chipped defensive end Wallace Gilberry on the play, then went after McClain. The Decatur native shed Ziemba, hopped over a vicious crack-back block by Rod Smith on Rashad Johnson, and made the play in traffic. … Later in the drive, McClain was fooled on a play-action bootleg pass, but a poorly-thrown ball to Cole Bennett made for just a short gain. … Auburn's Ben Tate got a first down inside the Alabama 5 as McClain caught a block from Tommy Trott, but still managed to get an assist on a gain of 8 yards. … On Auburn's third drive, Tate picked up a 28-yard gain around the left side as McClain made the stop, but it was a hobbled Ezekial Knight, unable to get off his block, that sprung Tate. … McClain made his biggest play of the night with just over a minute left in the first half when he picked off a Brandon Cox pass and returned it 23 yards inside the AU 20. From zone coverage, McClain stepped in front of a pass intended for Montez Billings and put UA in field goal range with his return. … On Auburn's winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, McClain took the wrong angle on a third-and-4 run for a first down by Lester. … McClain made four tackles in a row on the final AU drive that killed the clock, although the Tigers moved the chains on the last of those four to put the game out of reach.

Overview: It was an outstanding effort for a freshman's first Iron Bowl performance. McClain made the defensive play of the night for Alabama on his interception, a play that could have been a game-turner had the offense taken advantage. While there can be no doubt McClain showed up ready to play, he caught his share of blocks and at times waited for the play to reach him instead of filling the hole. Of his 15 tackles, 13 came on running plays, and 10 of those 13 were gains of five yards or more. Still, it was a warrior-like effort that foretells a bright future.

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