Three coaching changes in three years ended up being too much for one former Tennessee commitment.
InsideTennessee.com caught up with former two-year Vol commitment Eric MacLain this past weekend at a regional 7-on-7 Badger Sports Tournament to get the real story behind MacLain deciding to go with a different shade of orange.
MacLain, a big talented tight end, played a vital role in his North Carolina team’s success this weekend.
The former Knoxville native committed to Phillip Fulmer two years ago and remained committed to the Vols through the Lane Kiffin era.
MacLain explained his thoughts through the entire process.
“It truly felt like a real family with Coach Phil Fulmer’s staff,” MacLain explained. “We lost that with Lane Kiffin but his staff reached out to me and we still pushed through it because I was still playing for the University of Tennessee, that was the most important thing.”
A third new coach in three years and a miscommunication led to MacLain looking at a few other schools to make sure he was making the right choice.
“The third change in three years was just a little too much to handle,” MacLain said. “Coach Derek Dooley definitely made me feel welcome on my last visit, it’s definitely not his fault at all. He told me that I was their top recruit and top priority.”
According to MacLain, it had more to do with another school than about a coach.
Out of courtesy to one of Coach Fulmer’s former staff members that Maclain grew to respect a lot, the North Carolina football player decided to take a trip south to Clemson.
“The only reason we went for a visit was out of respect for Coach Dan Brooks,” MacLain said. “I fell in love with the University of Clemson. I always saw myself being a Tennessee Volunteer. I grew up loving the school, but it had a lot to do with the stability that Fulmer and his staff brought to the program. Once that was gone, something was never the same.”
MacLain found that missing home element at Clemson.
“I talked to a lot of the players about how they felt about the entire coaching staff,” MacLain said. “There is something special going on there.”
How close was the talented tight end from recommitting to the Vols?
“Very close,” Maclain said. “After my last visit there, I thought I had found what I was looking for with Coach Dooley. I can’t explain the difference, but it’s definitely different. Maybe it’s because Coach Brooks is so much like Coach Fulmer. It just feels right there.”
Distance to his North Carolina home is also a factor.
“It’s an eight-hour trip one way to Knoxville,” MacLain said. “I can go to Clemson and come back in seven hours. Family is very important to me. My little brother is in the ninth grade, I want to be able to see him play football.”
Knoxville was once home for MacLain. His grandfather went to the University of Tennessee, and he always thought he would too.
“It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made,” MacLain said. “I know I made the right choice.”
Is MacLain solid on his commitment to the Tigers?
“Very much so,” MacLain said. “Unless the Clemson coaching staff gets fired or leaves all of a sudden.”
Laughing, Maclain said he has told the Clemson coaching staff that he is a bad omen to coaches.
“They told me they (weren't) worried,” MacLain said. “The coaches said getting my commitment was worth the risk.”
THE INSIDE TAKE ON MACLAIN:
Much more athletic than I had expected.
He is at least 6-foot-5, and 265-pounds and has some of the best hands for a big man that I have seen in a long time.
He is a playmaker, he is a true on the field leader, that makes things happen offensively. Many say that he will be an offensive lineman at the next level.
His mother’s take on that. “He definitely doesn’t want to hear that he is going to be an offensive lineman,” Mrs. MacLain explained. “He wants to be a tight end and feels he can play that position at the next several levels of football.”