Primer on new Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain

By Adam Silverstein
December 4, 2014

The Florida Gators on Thursday official announced the hiring of Jim McElwain as the 24th head football coach in program history.

There is plenty to know about the former Colorado State head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator, which OnlyGators.com will break down in this primer.

Name: Jim McElwain
Pronunciation: Mack-El-Wayne
Nickname: Mac / Coach Mac

Age: 52 – At the time of his hiring, McElwain is the oldest head coach in the history of Florida football. The next-oldest, Ron Zook, was 47 at the time of his hiring.

Hometown: Missoula, Montana


Family: Karen (wife), Johanna (daughter, 23), Elizabeth (daughter, 21), Jerrett (son, 19)

Playing experience: Quarterback, Eastern Washington, 1980-83

Coaching experience: 28 years at Eastern Washington (QB/WR coach, 1987-94), Montana State (offensive coordinator, 1995-99), Louisville (WR coach, 2000-02), Michigan State (assistant head coach, 2003-05), Oakland Raiders (QB coach, 2006), Fresno State (offensive coordinator (2007), Alabama (offensive coordinator, 2008-11), Colorado State (head coach, 2012-14)

Coaching honors: Mountain West Coach of the Year (2014)

How he laughs:

Offensive style: McElwain is known mostly for his pro-style offense that was so successful at Alabama, where he developed Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. However, at Colorado State, he has been employing a spread offense, though he did not have his quarterback running the ball much. Nevertheless, Garrett Grayson threw for nearly 3,800 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2014, earning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year honors.

How he practices:

How he throws a first pitch:

How he refers to his special teams players:

REACTIONS

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (ESPN): “I got a chance to talk to Jeremy Foley this morning, and I know he’s very excited about him. He really believes in him. I know they’ve had great conversations. That’s very comforting as a Florida fan and a Florida supporter. He’s someone who has a great track record. He’s been in big-time games. He’s been in big-time situations. He’s been at a school where there’s a lot of pressure and at Florida you need to know how to handle big games and a lot of pressure because that’s something that comes with being the head coach at the University of Florida. So I think his time at Alabama will help him through that. I think also going to a place like Colorado State and finding a way to win there is something that is important as well because he will be helping rebuild this Florida program. I think there is a lot of talent there, especially defensively, and I think there are some young up-and-coming receivers that are pretty talented. I think really being able to get into recruiting fast is going to be important to start to rebuild but also to handle the pressure that comes with being the head coach at the University of Florida. … What I really like about the offenses that he has run is that they’re versatile. They’re not just one-dimensional. They’re not locked in. They’re not, ‘Hey, we’re a pro-style offense and we’re never going to adjust.’ … I think he’s got a good offensive mind. I think he’s someone that continues to grow. … You always have to have that mindset to be a successful coach.”

Former Alabama QB Greg McElroy (ESPN): “They’re getting about as good a guy as you can possibly find in this business. He’s very honest, he’s very forthright, he’s an incredibly disciplined, he’s an incredibly hard worker. I could not be happier for Jim McElwain. And what Florida is getting is a guy that’s extremely relatable, he commands the room every time he enters it. He’s going to do an incredible job recruiting because when you look at where he’s been in the past … he’s been everywhere. He’s going to be able to bring in that national credibility from a recruiting standpoint when he takes on this Florida Gators head coaching job.”

Radio host Paul Finebaum (ESPN): “I think it’s a home-run hire, and I think Jeremy Foley needed to make one after Will Muschamp’s unfortunate [four] years. And I think he got one. You mention what he did for Nick Saban; he really elevated that program when he went there in 2008. Saban’s first year was .500 and here comes Jim McElwain and Alabama suddenly came alive and played for an SEC Championship in 2008 as the number one team in the country, lost to Tim Tebow and Florida. The next year, reversed that winning the championship game and going on to beat Texas. Even in 2010, Alabama was in the hunt and then in 2011 Alabama won the championship again. McElwain had an unbelievable run at Alabama.”

Former quarterback Brian Griese (ESPN): “I think Jim McElwain is a slam-dunk hire. Let’s put it that way. He can flat-out coach. … From a quarterback’s perspective, I love this hire. It’s one thing to recruit a quarterback. It’s another thing to develop them and teach them how to play the position. I think it’s a lost art, quite frankly, in college football. Jim McElwain is one of those coaches that can be a head coach, can handle all the responsibilities off the field, but will still take control of that quarterback room. He will teach the quarterback how to diagnose defenses, how to make the right decisions, how to avoid turnovers; all of the things that really Florida has not had in a long time, Jim McElwain brings. … Jeremy Foley did not make this hire for 2015; he made this hire for the next five, six, seven, eight years. If you’re a Florida fan, you got to respect that.”

Gators sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor (Twitter): “#GatorNation welcome You coach can’t wait to get things started !!!!”

Former Florida defensive back Jermaine McCollum (Twitter): “Welcome Coach McElwain. You have a lot of work to do. #GoGators”

Former Gators defensive lineman Jack Youngblood (Twitter): “SEC experience is big plus…watch out Saban:))))”

Former Florida QB Tim Tebow (Twitter): “Welcome @CoachMcElwain to #GatorNation !”

Colorado State star quarterback Garrett Grayson (Twitter): “At the end of the day we all need to say thank u. Coach Mac had a dream n we live in a country where dreams become a reality if u work hard. … He helped bring back @CSUFootball to the level it used to be and now it’s OUR job as a community and a university to keep it there! … And for the [Gators] y’all just got one HELL of a coach. I won’t be surprised if y’all are national champs in 2-3 years! Good luck!!”

Colorado State WR Ty Clark (Twitter): “Florida got a great football mind and I honestly believe they will be National champs in the next 3-4 years..”

Former Alabama WR Jared Watson (Twitter): “Florida is about to get really good. REALLY FAST.”

17 Comments

  1. 305Gator says:

    Loving what I hear from those that know Mac and very excited about next season!
    Go Gators!

  2. Michael Jones says:

    Check out the Bama comments, folks. Also, very classy remarks by the CSU kids he left behind.

    Among Coach McElwain’s credits is that he’s held in high regard as a QB developer. I am really interested in seeing the development of the QB talent in our stable. Interested in seeing if he can help Jeff Driskel in his final year as a Gator. . poor Jeff. . NFL arm, NFL size, NFL legs. . but never has been able to put it together since the 11-2 season. . . maybe, just maybe . . . . . . .

    I love the idea of all of our players getting a fresh start. Too bad it’s a year too late for Hunter Joyer. Damn. . . . but onward and upward!

    GO GATORS!!!!!!!

    • mjGator says:

      I love seeing all the positive comments about Coach Mac from other Coaches, former players and the media. In this day and age, that is refreshing and certainly bodes well for the Gators. We can use some positivity! He’s skilled, qualified, liked by players, coaches, media, and fans. Like me, most of the recruiting targets don’t know much about him at first blush. I think once they start researching a little, they too will be impressed.
      Coach Mac is a guy who understands the QB position, can evaluate talent and certainly coach the position. I can’t wait to see his take on Driskel. I’ll bet he is impressed and finds a way to use him effectively. I hope so because I think we owe that to Jeff. A complimentary offense and some confidence can go a long way at the QB position!
      He apparently is also a relentless recruiter who believes that recruiting “your backyard” is where it all starts. With the exceptional talent we have in Florida that has been lost over the last couple of years, a turnaround “at home” would be a great start.

      I’m super excited for the future of Gator Football! Go Gators!

  3. Jon S says:

    JUST what I needed to read to get real excited about the hire instead of feeling wary. Real glad you got McElroy’s and Finebaum’s take on all this too, Adam. Go Gators and I look forward to him seeing what Harris and Grier can do! Now please get some rest dude, I can try my best to manage going a few days without your blog.

  4. gatorboi352 says:

    Watching that Inside Access video you linked Adam, he looks to have a nice change of pace/tone/demeanor compared to Muschamp. Not saying Muschamp’s style is inherently bad, but sometimes you just need a change. There seems to always be a little “aw shucks” about him that allows him to show that nothing is ever _that_ dire, or serious.

    I think what I’m saying is he appears to have that ability to flip that “switch” off, whereas Muschamp seemed to ALWAYS be on ( to some extent) ….until that presser after his firing anyways.

    Looking forward to him the more I see.

  5. Ken (CA) says:

    I assume he will be taking over duties immediately, at least as far as recruiting is concerned, and not wait until after the CSU bowl game?

  6. KB says:

    “What I really like about the offenses that he has run is that they’re versatile. They’re not just one-dimensional. They’re not locked in. They’re not, ‘Hey, we’re a pro-style offense and we’re never going to adjust.”…Tebow

    -I hope the statements from Tebow holds true but the proof will be in what we see on the field. Press conference, build the best staff, and on to cruit’n to get this thing back to where it needs to be. I am all in with whatever the Gators do and hoping this is the CEO program builder type of coach to pilot the program back to great heights in the foreseeable future.

    • Matt Burris says:

      Well, he ran a spread offense at CSU whereas he was big on pro style at Bama. So that tells me that he adapts his offense to the weapons/talents he has available. That’s certainly very important. Muschamp never could seem to be able to do that with Drisekl when he was more focused on running a pro style. Meyer was good at adjusting his offense to win, even in the midst of a season (remember when he finally discovered he could use the tiny Rainey and Demps in 2008 when he saw how successful it was for Oregon’s small RB?)

    • Michael Jones says:

      I remember his playcalling in the SEC championship when they broke our hearts and rang up 32 points against the #1 defense in the country. I remember that every time we made an adjustment, it seemed like he had an answer. As a Gator fan, it was very frustrating. He kept us off balance the entire game.

  7. Gatoralum88 says:

    I’m sold. I like him more & more with each positive quote, story, & video clip. Great work as usual Adam! He’s definitely the anti-Muschamp which is a GREAT thing. Every time I went to a spring practice, all Muschamp would ever do is chew guys out & scream at ’em. I’m sure McElwain will be a welcome change from that for the players. It’s like the old adage “you get more with honey than vinegar”. Spurrier always encourages guys & tells ’em he believes in them & look at his track record…this guy seems a lot like that! If people who know him consider him a “home run” & “slam dunk” then who am I to disagree. He definitely seems worth the buyout IMO. Go Gators!!!

  8. Dave Massey says:

    Ready for the Big Mac Attack in G’ville. It has been very frustrating being a Gator fan basically since that ’09 SEC championship game. Ironic, things have come full circle. Hope he puts together a great recruiting year, then develops one of the QB’s we already have (Grier or possibly the new guy, Jones) and we get back to championship quality football. There is plenty of talent on this team and hopefully get some top freshman (Ivey?) to come in and contribute. Offense definitely has nowhere to go but up. Once again, it is great to be a Florida Gator football fan!!!

  9. Mike The Red says:

    Realistically, McElwain was the best hire out there. It was an obvious choice. Only one serious competitor in my book. Hopefully, he will return us to past glory quickly.

    When the euphoria wears off, can we discuss how Foley’s failed Muschamp experiment cost the UAA $15M? (…and don’t tell me that it was only $13M… that is a shell game…)

    • Fatback says:

      Why worry about dollars already spent? It’s a lot of money to you and me but in the grand scheme of things if he is in fact the right one then the financial benefits of an excited and happy fanbase will far outweigh those costs. Even though it cost them I don’t think keeping Muschamp around would be fiscally responsible either. And personally I’d prefer to see them willing to fork over the cash to get the guy they want as opposed to saving money and settling for #2.

  10. sirchomp says:

    What is Roper’s status? I feel that he could work well with Mac. I’m interested to see if Muschamp handcuffed him, despite comments otherwise.

  11. SaraGator says:

    Media and GatorNation is going to love him! Welcome, Coach Mac!

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