With spring football around the corner at Indiana University (IU), Gavin McCabe isn’t 100-percent sure about what comes next.

He was recruited to play on the defensive line with the Hoosiers, but a year ago, he transitioned to the offensive line, which leaves the Marist graduate wondering what his senior year will hold.

But, whether it’s staying on the offensive line or moving back to the defensive line, McCabe is ready to roll.

 

“We’re trying to figure that out right now. It’ll be my senior year, but my redshirt sophomore year. We’ll see how it plays out,” McCabe said. “We’ve got to figure out which guys are staying and leaving, and we had some younger guys do well on the offensive line. Wherever the team needs me, let me know; I can play both.”

For McCabe and the Hoosiers, the 2020 season was a thrill ride as IU gained national attention by climbing into the ranks of top 10 in the nation.

McCabe, a 2018 Marist alumnus, made the jump from defensive to offensive line, but he made the transition without the benefit of spring football or a normal offseason training regimen.

It was late last winter that IU Coach Tom Allen approached McCabe about making the move.

“Our defensive line coach had left for Texas, and we’d lost some guys on the line,” McCabe said. “I was a little hesitant at first. I’d very rarely played offensive line in high school, more so tight end. I thought it might be a good opportunity though, so I was all for it. If it didn’t work out with spring football, I could always go back.”

McCabe never quite got the chance.

The Hoosiers were just a few practices into their spring schedule when the pandemic struck, shutting down collegiate sports through the end of the semester.

Although he was in communication with the coaching staff, McCabe had to prepare for the position change on his own.

He dove into the playbook. He worked on the fundamentals. He looked to put on weight, bulking up to play on the offensive line. McCabe arrived at IU at 240 pounds as a freshman. Over two years working with the Hoosiers’ strength and conditioning staff, he gained over 40 pounds.

However, in switching to offensive line, McCabe wanted to add a little more.

 

“Putting on the weight, nutrition is super-important. You’re looking to put on good weight,” McCabe said. “You put on muscle you didn’t even know you had, in my neck, my knees, my legs. The nutrition, though, it’s so important because you don’t want to be a meathead.”

Working out whenever possible and increasing the number of healthy snacks and meals he consumed, McCabe climbed to 295 pounds. He said a favorite snack was Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The start of the season for IU featured even more drama as Big Ten Conference officials originally said there would be no football season in 2020.

They backtracked weeks later, moving forward with a shortened season against only conference opponents.

The Hoosiers opened the season with an upset win over Penn State and then went on to beat Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. They even pushed Ohio State to the brink in a high-scoring road game.

McCabe said he and his teammates knew the team’s potential all along, especially after coming up just short of a bowl-game victory to wrap up the 2019 season. McCabe dressed for all Indiana’s games but did not get on the field in game action.

“Going into the year, we knew what we had in the locker room,” McCabe said. ‘Losing to Tennessee in the bowl game, that hurt a lot. We knew we could make the jump, come out guns blazing. The first game, the Penn State win, was huge.”

IU appeared to be on the way to a New Year’s Day bowl game but ultimately played on Jan. 2 against Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl. Struggling to find a rhythm, the Hoosiers lost 26-20.

“Not getting those New Year’s bowls, it hurt, but it didn’t change how we played,” McCabe said. “We were frustrated, but that didn’t alter anything. We wanted to come out and play IU football.”

The team last won a bowl game in 1991.

But, with a strong returning core expected back from this year’s squad for a more-normal 2021 season, hopes are high in Bloomington.

Wherever he’s lining up, McCabe is ready for the next step.

“It was definitely tough not playing the last couple years,” McCabe said. “The experience was so worthwhile though, whether I’m playing or not. This was a season I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”