When it became apparent that Jim McElwain had emerged as Jeremy Foley’s No. 1 target in his coaching search, a writer who covered McElwain when McElwain was the offensive coordinator at Alabama called to tell me that I would be very impressed. He said fans and players also would quickly be won over.
The writer guaranteed that McElwain would win his opening news conference. And that’s just what he did Saturday. He knocked it out of the park.
He was engaging, funny, intelligent, obviously knows what he’s doing and has a plan to bring the Gators back to elite status in college football. He said he can’t wait to meet his players (which he’ll do on Monday) and then hit the recruiting trail. I can see why. With his track record and personality, I have a feeling he’s going to win over the Florida players and recruits in a very short time.
That, of course, is a good thing. The sooner the players and their new coach get on the same page, the sooner the turnaround begins. And the sooner the recruits get to know him, the sooner those commitments will start coming in for the Gators, who obviously are behind in recruiting at the moment.
One thing was very apparent in Saturday’s news conference: this is a job McElwain really wants and Florida is a place he really wants to be.
“Guys, I’ve just got to tell you this. This is an honor, I’m excited,” he said. “I sat on the other sideline in that Swamp one day, playing against these guys. When you think of the Ring of Honor, when you think about the great players, you think about the great games, you think about the history and tradition that is Gator football, I cannot tell you how proud I am to be part of that. I look forward to a long, long history here.”
The writer who covered McElwain at Alabama also told me the guy has a way of drawing people in and making them believe in what he does and how he does it. He’s knows offense, and his track record would indicate that he will have success on that side of the ball at Florida.
In the last two weeks of the regular season, Will Muschamp said he was stressing to the players to buy in to what the new coach is selling, whoever it turned out to be. After seeing McElwain in his first news conference, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.