Silver Lining: McElwain’s unanswered questions

By Adam Silverstein
December 11, 2014

Questions went unanswered in Jim McElwain’s press conference for good reason

When the Gators hired Will Muschamp four years ago, he had no problem whatsoever laying out specifics about what Florida football would look like under his leadership. He declared that the Gators would be a pro-style, blue-collar, lunch pail-toting team from their first practice through his last day, and while he saw most of that through, obviously the offense underwent radical changes with similarly lacking results throughout his four seasons.

New head coach Jim McElwain took a completely different approach during his introductory press conference. Granted, he was asked fewer questions about his football philosophies than Muschamp when he was behind the podium, but McElwain responded to the questions by refusing to provide specifics and diverting the subject in one way or another.

Asked what style of offense the Gators will run in 2015, McElwain said, “Whatever works. I’ve seen some pretty good stuff that’s worked here in the past. We’ll get that going.” Was he referring to a return of the fun-and-gun under Steve Spurrier? “I don’t know what you call it, but it will be a blast,” he said. “How about the Humane Society?”

A man who obviously likes to share his sense of humor (Muschamp has one too, though it took him four years to get comfortable in his own skin), McElwain’s “Humane Society” reference was a call back to one of his non-answers earlier in the press conference, when he was asked about who has influenced him offensively throughout his career.

“That’s a pretty interesting [question]. I always get that. It’s like, ‘Who are you?’ Well, here is who I am,” he began. “I’m the dog they dropped off down at the Humane Society. He has a little bit of about every breed in him. Whatever the situation is, you try to bring that breed out that helps success.”

He added: “There’s not been one thing that I’ve invented. A lot of guys in this business think they invented it. It’s been done somewhere along the way. Somebody did it before.”

More than anything, this was likely a purposeful avoidance technique by McElwain, who in an anti-Muschamp move has decided to take a closer look at Florida’s roster – and evaluate its players – in hopes of employing a style that fits them rather than force-feeding the team something it is not fit to execute next season.

“It’s about the evaluation of the talent that’s here, really accentuate what they do well, adapt to that, then recruit to some of the areas that maybe we need to get to as we form who we are and an identity,” he explained.

“Obviously, we believe in balance. Yet some games, based on what the defense has taken away, you need to have the versatility to do the other thing. That’s really where it evolves.

“But as we kind of do this, the one thing is, been pretty successful over the years of putting up some pretty good numbers with whoever we have back there, whether it’s the quarterback, running back, wideout, offensive line. It’s going to be one of those deals that we will develop it based on first what we have to play with.”

While this is not a novel concept, it is certainly one that many successful coaches employ, including a two-time national championship winner with the Gators, Urban Meyer.

Upon arriving at Florida, Meyer inherited a two-year starter and pro-style quarterback in Chris Leak who possessed drop-back ability and limited speed. So he ensured that the Gators’ offense played to Leak’s strengths in order to maximize its effectiveness. One year later, as Meyer had a chance to recruit toward his preferred offensive identity, Leak’s skills were supplemented with those of Tim Tebow, and everyone knows the result.

McElwain also shares one other thing in common with Meyer, a commitment to letting his playmakers, you know, make plays. McElwain turned two-star wideout Rashard Higgins, who only possessed offers from Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa, into Colorado State’s leading receiver and one of the nation’s top playmakers this year. Higgins has hauled in 89 balls for 1,640 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2014 and will be a high draft pick in 2015. Meyer did something similar in 2005 when he ensured that Leak found Chad Jackson, who registered 88 receptions for 900 yards and nine scores; Jackson, a five-star prospect that underperformed prior to Meyer’s arrival, went from late-round upside pick to the No. 36 overall selection.

Again, it’s a simple philosophy but nevertheless an important one.

“On your call sheet, it says, ‘Get It To.’ Pretty simple. There’s this column that says, ‘Get It To,’ that means get it to the guy that can score, right?” McElwain asked rhetorically.

“It’s about ‘Get It Tos;’ it’s about finding who those people are, then determining situations and touches throughout a game for you to be successful. You got to do that through multiple formations and shifts because people can start to take guys away if they’re just standing in one position. That’s where the multiplicity of what you’re trying to accomplish comes to fruition.”

Plenty of questions remain about McElwain (unfortunate rhyme), but early indications are that – at least from an offensive standpoint – he understands two concepts his predecessor did not: 1) There is no need to force square pegs into round holes, 2) games and seasons are rapidly changing on a dime and require a coach and his players to constantly adapt to the situation.

Not Only Gators: Reheating pizza

There are a few things I do well in the kitchen. I am no chef, nor will I ever claim to be, but I have about 20 dishes that I can make from scratch and a couple of tricks that I have picked up along the way from friends.

But no matter how well you make something, how great it tastes or how many people (tell you they) enjoy it, the simple fact is that it is easy and usually just as satisfying to order a quality pizza pie.

The ultimate tragedy with pizza, even the best pies, is that if you are neither in a large group nor planning to stuff your face, there are usually plenty of leftovers. And leftovers never taste as good as fresh food. (Yes, I understand millions of people love cold pizza in the morning, and I do too, but pizza is better hot, period.)

Microwaving pizza gets it hot and bubbly but results in soggy crust. Trying to reanimate pizza in an oven or toaster oven creates what amounts to a flatbread; at best a pizza that is way too crispy or not hot enough. Therefore, I came up with one simple, multi-step process to reheat pizza that maintains its integrity – crispy crust, bubbly cheese, puffy and steaming hot outside crust.

1) Place a nonstick pan on your stove top large enough to hold two slices of pizza in this formation: V/\. Turn the burner up to medium-low (slightly closer to medium).
2) Place two slices of cold pizza on a plate, insert into microwave for approximately 20 seconds, long enough to take the chill off the pizza and see the cheese react.
3) Remove the plate from the microwave and move the two slices into the pan. The bottom of the slices will crisp up from indirect heat from the nonstick pan, while the cheese, sauce and outer crust will be heated upward, ensuring they are cooked evenly and do not toast or burn (the issue with using an oven).
4) Check the bottom of the pizza every few minutes by lifting it with a spatula and tapping it with your finger or a utensil. It will get crispy fast but may need longer to heat through.
5) Once the cheese is bubbling and the crust is crispy, remove it from the pan and enjoy the best reanimated pizza you’ve ever tasted.

This Week’s Movie Trailer

The Cobbler:

The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…

Films featuring Adam Sandler (1996-2002):
1. Happy Gilmore
2. Billy Madison
3. The Waterboy
4. The Wedding Singer
5. Airheads

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.


  1. gatorboi352 says:

    My method of choice for reheating pizza (or really anything that doesn’t require the use of a full size oven) is this bad boy:

    Tastes like the minute it was delivered.

    Re: Muschamp and his “always balanced” philosophy; it was almost a trolling effort on the fans and media due to the fact that Florida teams were essentially 65/35 run to pass under his watch for 4 years. But…. WHATEVER and welcome Coach Mac!

  2. 1974Gator says:

    Excellent read Adam! Very insightful from beginning to end. I look forward to your The Silver Lining piece every week. The Cobbler looks like a good one.

  3. Brock says:

    I thought you had my unwavering respect and support until you put Airheads (one of the greatest movies of all time) at the BOTTOM of that list (below THE WEDDING SINGER?!). This is enough to make me question everything I thought I knew about you (your pizza approach notwithstanding). I need some time to process this.

  4. sjkoepp says:

    My dad thankfully taught me the microwaving pizza for 30sec before trick as well. Except I put it in the oven and broil it after the microwave until the cheese is bubbly.

    As always, great write up. I don’t know how you consistently find something to keep us readers interested and entertained every week.

    • Thanks.

      The problem with that is you’re heating up an entire oven for a couple of slices. Also, it creates more of the flatbread style I described with the top getting extra toasty. It’s best to avoid the regular oven, IMO.

  5. lawschoolque says:

    cool, but the only thing is that your reheat method seems to take long. What is the time from fridge to mouth on your reheat method? Sometimes I let the 98.6 degree temp inside the mouth do the trick while eating.

    You know what’s even harder to reheat and maintain a modicum of edibility? Fried foods. Chicken sure, but what absolutely sucks when reheated….french fries!

    • It probably takes 5-6 minutes, which I do not think is too long to enjoy a meal.

      You need (and everyone should have) a toaster oven.

      Fried foods are very difficult to reheat. The best-case scenario for doing that is to re-fry them. If you do not have a deep fryer (most people do not — including me), I like to lay fries out on tin foil and put them in my toaster oven, flipping them halfway through. They always get crispy again for me and taste very good.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      “You know what’s even harder to reheat and maintain a modicum of edibility? Fried foods.”

      Again, I can’t recommend this enough:

      It has changed the reheating food game for me for good. French fries too.

  6. apprentice says:

    Thanks for putting this in perspective. I was rather dissapointed with the press conference and talking with some other Gators peeps, it seemed like many were just content with the fact that he said “we’re going to win” and “I talked to Spurrier”. I’m glad you noticed all the non-answers. I’m also glad you make a compelling case as to why this is actually a good thing. To be honest, explaining the difference between his approach and Muschamp’s did a lot of good for me right away, and the rest of the article further expands on those points.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      To me, Muschamp just came off as trying to hard (his whole 4 years, not just the opening speech). He seemed to be forcing “it” a lot.

      Take Spurrier for a stark contrast: What made his winning ways seem so great was his nonchalant, effortless approach to it all. McElwain seems to have that same casual “we got this” confidence about him. I definitely feel hopeful.

  7. Daniel M. says:

    -I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

    -There’s a new calm here with the hiring of a new coach and the exit of an arrogant commenter.

    – Will Mac’s offense be able to overcome what will likely be a very thin O-line in ’15? The spread definitely helps

  8. Ken (CA) says:

    I know it is way early, but has there been anything from any recruits (current, previous commits, potential commits) on the new staff?

    Also, been getting “You are posting too fast please slow down” frequently for the past month or so when submitting, not sure why, seeing as I haven’t posted anything in a day or two

    • If you click the button twice or something, that might pop up. Other than that, I’m not sure why that’s happening.

      Nothing worth writing about.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        Not clicking twice, I do that occasionally, and will get the “you have already posted this identical comment” or something like that, this is different, and seems to be happening frequently. I was guessing that maybe you changed some timer option on the site or something when there was such heavy traffic during the coaching drama

  9. 305Gator says:

    Very good analysis Adam. I had no problem with the “vague” answers in the presser and can’t understand why anyone would be disappointed with our new coach or what he said.
    To me it goes to show that Mac actually has a clue how to run a football team. He can’t tell us what type of system he will run because he doesn’t yet know what he has. This means that Mac has experience and knows what he is doing, he has been there and done that already. A far cry form the guy before who insisted on running his system no matter what and only “changed” his offensive philosophy when it was too little too late. Guess that is the big difference from being a coordinator with an idea of what may work to being a head coach who knows what has worked and what has not.

  10. Walter says:

    As we live in the same area, what is your favorite place to get the pizza from? Mine #1 pick is Tucci’s, and #2 is Spadini’s. The first is coal fired, the second gas fired oven.

  11. Matt Burris says:

    A neat trick with reheating leftover pizza is to use a waffle maker. Fold the pizza and pop it in the waffle maker and close the lid and let it cook. You’ll get something similar to a calzone. For extra awesome, throw in some more cheese, meats, or other toppings you may have in the fridge to make the leftover pizza taste even better.

  12. Michael J. says:

    The most important thing is whether the Gators have a god quarterback on campus. Roper said something when he came on board that went right over many people’s heads. He said that it didn’t matter what “system” was used on offense, a good quarterback will succeed regardless. It meant that Driskel wasn’t a bad quarterback because of the scheme, he was a bad quarterback because he’s a bad quarterback. McElwain can’t get away with throwing Driskel out there, the pitchforks will come out before the first snap if he did that. We have seen that Harris has limited ability throwing the ball. We don’t have a clue about Grier and Mornhinweg, well we’ve seen him and he makes Harris look like John Elway. The biggest task for McElwain is to find a quarterback. It’s going to take more than his dog to play well. It’s been five years since UF had a good quarterback, this problem didn’t start with Muschamp. If you have a good quarterback, you have a chance. Muschamp really didn’t have a chance with the quarterbacks he had, it’s his fault for not getting a good one, let’s hope we see a good quarterback before another five years elapse.

  13. gatorboi352 says:

    “He said that it didn’t matter what “system” was used on offense, a good quarterback will succeed regardless.”

    That’s just silly.

    If that were the case, please explain to me the successes of both Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron under McElwain’s watch. Two extremely average QBs at best that won championships under the _system_ of McElwain. The SYSTEM makes the QB, not the other way around.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Sorry, this is in reply to Michael J.

    • Sgt. Friday says:

      Talk about silly! The system does not make the quarterback. No one said McElroy or McCarron were great quarterbacks, but they weren’t horrible quarterbacks like UF has had for the past five years. I guess Roper is “silly” as well since he’s the one who said it. It’s not the “system” that makes a good quarterback, it’s the quarterback, silly rabbit.

      • Razzlegator says:

        Me:Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.
        IMDB:In fact, what Friday actually said in an early episode is “All we want are the facts.”
        Me:Either way, that’s all any of us want. Help us out Sgt.Joe.

  14. Sgt. Friday says:

    Which players and coaches are following Muschamp to Auburn?

  15. joe says:

    McElwain reminds me of a car salesman. Spouting off some mantras Sabah used does not make him anything like Saban.
    He’s fake as hell, and his old folksy mannerisms are out of date and will not impress this generation of recruits. Kids are not as
    Naive today, be straight forward with them like Urban was and you’ll do well. In fact, just mimic everything you do to be Urban, Mcelwain,
    And you’ll be good. Don’t need that folksy stuff, gators aren’t redneck FSU fans so we don’t need another back woodsy jimbo in the state of Florida. I just don’t see the drive and intensity to win with the guy. He’s nothing like Sabah and I wish people would stop giving credit to assistants for championships when they clearly joined a dominant well-managed program like Alabama, who’s offense has improved considerably since mac left, which should have been taken into consideration. Hell, we should’ve just hired nussmeir or kkiffin. Kiffin will be a good head coach with a competent staff around him someday. If missed out on not hiring him as OC a year ago. Could a made a huge difference.

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