Image Credit: ESPN Images
The admiration and appreciation is palpable when Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain and Alabama head coach Nick Saban are in a room together. And it’s not just because McElwain helped Saban win a pair of national titles.
McElwain and Saban appear to be kindred spirits, and the former boss did not even take a beat when asked Tuesday on The Paul Finebaum Show to share his feelings about the Crimson Tide’s ex-offensive coordinator.
“This guy’s great. His professionalism, the job that he’s done at Colorado State and Florida — and the job that he did for us before he left for those places, even after he had the Colorado State job — he did a fantastic job in our national championship game [that year].
“I love him.”
Saban was waiting for McElwain to join him on set with Finebaum at the time, and though McElwain was not given the opportunity to share similar sentiments, he has in the past.
When Florida hired McElwain, some questioned the hire as athletic director Jeremy Foley going back to the Saban well for a second straight coach — following ex-LSU and Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
While Muschamp certainly never lived up to the pedigree he established for himself under Saban and at Texas, McElwain is the closest thing that college football has seen to a Saban clone.
He’ll get on players when they do wrong on the field but shield them from any form of media criticism off it. McElwain will rant about any topic he deems fit — often not football, in his case — but preemptively attempt to shut down discussion and get perturbed at those that don’t follow that instruction when the subject is not to his liking.
Of course, the best way for McElwain to be an actual Saban clone is to win on the field. So far so good for the Gators with their first SEC East title and trip to the SEC Championship Game since 2009. There are plenty of questions still left unanswered, of course, such as whether McElwain can win without suspended-now-transferred quarterback Will Grier and make massive in-season adjustments when a catastrophic player loss occurs.
Here is a portion of the short, not-quite-enlightening interview Finebaum held with McElwain and Saban on Tuesday as the two coaches discuss the fall out from the Baylor sexual assault scandal and how it has altered the perception of college football.