Saturday December 20, 2014 McElwain: Gators Must Start Getting Best Players in State to Return to Top
Updated: 5:40pm, December 20
Welcome to Carter's Corner!
Updated: 5:40pm, December 20
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- New Gators head coach Jim McElwain spent part of Saturday afternoon watching his former team play in the Las Vegas Bowl.
In the second quarter of the Colorado State-Utah matchup, McElwain joined ABC announcers Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer for a phone interview.
Musburger asked McElwain what it was like to watch the Rams from afar after leading them to a 10-2 regular-season record and then taking the Florida job less than a week later.
"I've got to tell you, this may be the toughest thing I've ever done,'' McElwain said. "Seeing those guys out there, I just can't tell you how proud I am of everyone in the organization."
McElwain's offensive coordinator at Colorado State, Dave Baldwin, is serving as Colorado State's interim head coach. Meanwhile, McElwain is busy trying to fill out his inaugural Gators staff.
He announced the hiring of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins on Tuesday, his first hire since being introduced as the 25th coach in Florida football history Dec. 6.
He did not place a timetable on hiring assistants.
"It takes patience because you only have one chance to get it right,'' McElwain said. "At Colorado State I really assembled some outstanding coaches with recruiting relationships in some areas we needed to make some headway in and that's kind of the same thing we're doing here."
As McElwain gets acclimated at Florida, he is evaluating the current roster and has watched the Gators practice for the Birmingham Bowl under interim head coach D.J. Durkin. Beyond that, his primary focus is on building a successful program like he did during his three seasons at Colorado State.
The Rams were 9-27 in the three seasons prior to McElwain's arrival. He posted a 22-16 record with the Rams and had back-to-back winning seasons after a 4-8 record in his first season.
"Number one, just getting a feel for the infrastructure and how it's built, and then, really putting the plan in motion,'' he said of the learning curve when taking over a program. "It takes time. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Much of McElwain's first two months on the job will be focused on National Signing Day and trying to salvage a solid recruiting class. When Florida parted ways with Will Muschamp, Florida lost momentum in recruiting.
McElwain spent his first full week on the job traveling the state and region with secondary coach Travaris Robinson for recruiting purposes.
The mission is clear.
"You've got to take care of your own state, first,'' McElwain said. "And then from there, find them regional. You've got to be smart, and wise, and yet get the right fit for the area that you're in."
At Florida, McElwain has a much deeper in-state talent pool than he did at Colorado State.
However, he has Florida State, Miami, USF and UCF to compete with for recruits.
In his view, it's no secret what Florida must do to climb the recruiting rankings and ultimately, the national polls.
"When the Gators were on top, they had the best players in the state of Florida," McElwain said. "And that's something we've got to come back and do."
Updated: 7:02pm, December 19
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators starting quarterback Treon Harris is in the headlines today for off-the-field reasons.
The kind of headlines new head coach Jim McElwain would prefer to live without as he gets settled into his new job.
According to reports, the 19-year-old Harris was charged with operating a motor vehicle without a license, a second-degree misdemeanor. Harris was driving a vehicle on Saturday night that was stopped on Stadium Road at 11:29 p.m. according to the University of Florida Police Department.
Two of Harris’ teammates -- freshmen defensive backs Jalen Tabor and J.C. Jackson -- were passengers in the vehicle. The Gainesville Sun first reported the story Friday morning, but when you are Florida’s starting quarterback, news spreads quickly and by early afternoon the Harris story was on dozens of newspaper and sports websites.
According to the police report, two small bags of marijuana were found in the vehicle, which is not owned by Harris, Tabor or Jackson, thus no other charges were filed.
Harris and Tabor were named to the All-SEC Freshman Team earlier this month. Jackson was redshirted following shoulder surgery prior to the season. Harris has a court date set for Jan. 15.
The University Athletic Association released a statement this afternoon regarding the incident.
"We are aware of the incident and are dealing with it internally and their bowl status hasn’t changed.”
Meanwhile, here are a few other news items from Florida football:
--Sophomore defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. will miss the Birmingham Bowl following recent hip surgery. Cox finished the season with four sacks, three coming in Florida's 10-9 win at Tennessee.
"Something that was deteriorating over time that he needed to have done,'' interim head coach/defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said.
--Senior tight end Jake McGee is seeking a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. McGee suffered a broken leg in the first half of the season opener against Eastern Michigan in his first game at Florida.
A transfer from Virginia, McGee was redshirted in 2010 and then played for the Cavaliers from 2011-13. He graduated and transferred to UF for his final season of eligibility.
However, his season was over before he worked up a sweat and McGee has applied for a medical hardship waiver.
"He’s trying to do that. We’re trying to get him another year,'' Durkin said. "I totally believe he deserves it and that should work out for him. But we don’t know the answer on that yet."
--At his introductory press conference, McElwain said he looked forward to meeting Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan.
"I'm a huge basketball fan, so I'll probably be bothering the heck out of him,'' McElwain said.
McElwain finally had time to stop by Donovan's office on Thursday and the two chatted for a while. Donovan and his Gators depart today for Sunrise where they face Wake Forest on Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic.
--Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley discussed McElwain and more on Thursday during an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show.
You can check it out here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12048492
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel knows the significance of winning a national award. He won the 1996 Heisman Trophy and led the Gators to their first national championship the same season.
For the past decade college football’s most prominent award for community service has been the Wuerffel Trophy. LSU’s Rudy Niswanger won the inaugural award in 2005.
The Wuerffel Trophy was the winner Friday when it was accepted into membership of the National College Football Awards Association at the organization’s winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, joining college football’s other top awards such as the Heisman Trophy, Butkus Award, Outland Trophy and Co.
“This is a big milestone in our efforts to spotlight the great community service work done by football players across the country,’’ Wuerffel said in a news release.
Wuerffel was in New York last week to honor this year’s winner, Ole Miss linebacker Deterrian Shackelford, the 2014 Wuerffel Trophy.
While already an established award, Friday's news adds prestige and raises the Wuerffel Trophy's profile nationally.
“It is a pleasure to welcome the Wuerffel Trophy as a new member of the National College Football Awards Association,” said association president Mark Wolpert. “For the last decade Danny and his staff have done a wonderful job building their organization and have recognized players who not only excel on the field but also in their communities. We look forward to a long relationship with the Wuerffel Trophy.”
The 2014 Wuerffel Trophy will be presented to Shackelford at on Feb. 13 at an awards presentation in Fort Walton Beach.
Updated: 11:44am, December 17
A spot awaits for Vernon Hargreaves III's commemorative brick outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has been collecting postseason honors at a fast rate of late.
Hargreaves has earned a brick outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with his latest.
On Wednesday Hargreaves was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News, one of the criteria used by UF to honor its most accomplished players with a commemorative brick.
The bricks are located on the sidewalk outside the Heavener Football Complex.
Besides being recognized for his play by The Sporting News, Hargreaves earned second-team All-American honors by the Associated Press on Tuesday.
To earn a commemorative brick, a player must be named a first-team All-American by either The Sporting News, Associated Press, Walter Camp Foundation, Football Writers Association of American or American Football Coaches Association.
A sophomore from Tampa, Hargreaves has 45 tackles, an SEC-leading 13 pass breakups and two interceptions heading into Florida’s matchup with East Carolina on Jan. 3 in the Birmingham Bowl.
And now his own brick.
Updated: 4:51pm, December 15
Florida senior Taylor Unroe serves in Saturday's loss to Stanford in the Elite Eight. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It’s that time of year when the fall sports season gives way to the winter calendar. And rumors abound on the coaching carousel.
First, the UF volleyball team’s season came to a close on Saturday night in the Elite Eight. The Gators were swept by No. 1 seed Stanford, ending their season at 28-4.
Next, Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has surfaced as a potential candidate at North Carolina.
A look at those stories and more through these fresh links from around the Internet:
--Gators coach Mary Wise was impressed by Stanford via her quotes in The Ames (Iowa) Tribune.
--Here is a look at the NCAA women’s volleyball bracket with the Final Four set.
--Auburn coach Gus Malzahn says former Gators coach Will Muschamp was “who I wanted and who we needed” as defensive coordinator.
--Durkin is preparing the Gators for the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3 while he serves as interim head coach. Meanwhile, InsideCarolina.com reports UNC coach Larry Fedora has targeted Durkin to lead UNC’s defense.
--The Gators shut down Jacksonville in the second half Sunday to win third straight writes Erica A. Hernandez of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Former UF defensive lineman Lynden Trail discovered success at Norfolk State after transferring from Florida and is headed to the Senior Bowl.
--Another former Gator, receiver Marqui Hawkins, is transferring to Indiana after UAB dropped its football program.
--The Tim Tebow Foundation announced this week that it has opened the Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao City, Philippines.
Updated: 4:28pm, December 13
Former Gators coach Will Muschamp is the new defensive coordinator at Auburn. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp was not out of work for long. If you're counting, try 12 days. And he spent most of that time on vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Muschamp returned home this week and late Friday agreed to a deal to return to Auburn as defensive coordinator. Since coaching his final game at Florida on Nov. 29, Muschamp had repeatedly been linked to the opening on Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's staff.
According to reports, Muschamp will be the highest-paid coordinator in college football with an average salary more than $1.6 million over three years.
Auburn officially announced the news late Friday night.
"My family, Carol, Jackson, Whit, and I are excited about coming back to Auburn and I look forward to working with coach Malzahn to win championships," Muschamp said in a prepared statement.
Muschamp was introduced at a press conference Saturday morning at Auburn, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.
"I'm excited to welcome Will back to Auburn as our new defensive coordinator," Malzahn said in a statement. "Will is a one of the top defensive minds in college football who has great passion and energy for the game. He is a tremendous addition to our staff."
Happy for Champ— Nick Washington (@NickWashingtonn) December 13, 2014
In four seasons as Florida's head coach, Muschamp had a 28-21 record. However, the Gators' defense consistently ranked among the best in the country and Auburn was willing to pay top dollar to get Muschamp.
He replaces former Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who was dismissed after Auburn allowed 31 points or more in its final six SEC games.
Updated: 1:19pm, December 9
Michael McNeely takes a selfie with fans after his final home game on Nov. 22. (Photo: Tim Casey)
It’s been 38 days ago and a few shifts at Publix.
It’s been four games ago and more than a dozen practices.
It’s been more interviews than Michael McNeely did in his previous four years at UF.
McNeely took more questions on Tuesday morning in New York, this time in the well-heeled surroundings of the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Such is life for McNeely since Nov. 1 when he went from unknown Gators walk-on receiver to instant folk hero thanks to a 21-yard touchdown run on a fake field goal that sparked Florida to a 38-20 victory over Georgia, the Gators' biggest win of the season.
McNeely’s story drew national attention and caught the attention of the National Football Foundation, which honored McNeely on Tuesday as the 2014 NFF Legacy Award winner. The Legacy Award is not your typical college football award.
Established in 2007, it honors individuals who exhibit the NFF’s mission to build leaders through football.
In fact, McNeely is only the second player to be honored, joining former Texas long snapper/Green Beret member Nate Boyer.
Others bestowed with the award over the years include former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, Dexter Shoe Company founder and philanthropist Harold Alfond, and Jeffrey Orleans, former Ivy League executive director.
McNeely was recently accepted into UF’s medical school while carrying a 3.92 GPA, earning a scholarship in the fall, and working Sunday shifts at Publix.
McNeely touched the ball three times this season on offense, scoring twice – his touchdown run against Georgia and a 28-yard touchdown reception in his final home game on Nov. 22.
He shared with the crowd in New York on Tuesday what the past 38 days – and four years – have been like for a player few Florida fans realized was even on the team a few weeks ago.
“This means so much to me,’’ McNeely said.
His message to others out there who dream of playing college football but know they will need to take an alternate route than high-profile recruits?
“I would just say to try your best at everything that you do,’’ McNeely said. “I would have never had this opportunity if my parents had not pushed me to work hard in academics. I got into the University of Florida as a student first.
“I always had a dream of playing D-I football. I continued training for the potential of being on this team and thankfully I was able to make it, and I guess the rest, as they say, is history.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One season after missing a bowl game for the first time in more than 20 years, the Gators learned Sunday evening that they are headed to the Birmingham Bowl to face East Carolina.
The schools have met once before, a 24-17 Homecoming victory for the Gators in 1983. Coincidentally, Florida will play East Carolina in two of its next three games. Florida hosts the Pirates on Sept. 15 in the second game of the 2015 season.
The Gators’ trip to Birmingham represents their first game in the city since a 28-13 victory over Alabama in the 1993 Southeastern Conference Championship Game, the second year of the game’s existence. It was a rematch of the inaugural SEC title game in 1992, won by Alabama.
The game moved to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 1994.
While Florida introduced new head coach Jim McElwain at a press conference Saturday, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is serving as UF’s interim head coach through the bowl game. McElwain hit the road to recruit Monday and will be on the road for several days.
Here is more information to get you ready for the Birmingham Bowl, which is scheduled for Jan. 3 at noon EST, and the bowl season:
Official Website: http://www.birminghambowl.com/
Bowl Schedule: The folks at SBNation.com created this fun bowl schedule guide and offer their picks.
First Look: ESPN.com offers a quick breakdown of the matchup between the Gators (6-5) and the Pirates (8-4).
Florida Factoid: This is not Florida’s first bowl trip to Birmingham. The Gators defeated Illinois 14-10 in the All-American Bowl at Legion Field on Dec. 29, 1988. Emmitt Smith rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns to earn MVP honors.
Legion Field: The “Old Grey Lady” is without a regular tenant for the first time in its history now that UAB has dropped its football program. However, city officials want to keep the stadium open for business.
Prolific Pirate: East Carolina receiver Justin Hardy was named winner of the Burlsworth Trophy on Monday, given annually to the top player in the country who started his career as a walk-on. Heading into the Birmingham Bowl, Hardy has 110 receptions for 1,334 yards on the season. He has caught more career passes (376) than any player in FBS history after earning a spot on the scout team in 2010 as a walk-on.
Pirates Coach Ruffin McNeill: In his fifth season, McNeill met with local reporters on Monday to discuss the bowl matchup against the Gators.
Updated: 6:23pm, December 6
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's hiring of head coach Jim McElwain was a popular topic on Championship Saturday.
McElwain was introduced as the 25th head coach in Gators football history during an 11 a.m. press conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The SEC Network crew of host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum discussed McElwain in depth on their pregame show prior to Saturday's SEC Championship Game in Atlanta between Alabama and Missouri.
Tebow, whose Gators had their school-record 22-game win streak snapped by Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game when McElwain was the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator, is more familiar with McElwain than he would probably prefer.
He gave the Gators high marks for landing McElwain to replace Will Muschamp in quotes provided by the SEC Network.
"He is bringing an offense that is very multi-faceted and he has had a lot of success,'' Tebow said. "He is able to adapt and grow with his athletes and play to their strengths. What I really like about him is how he rebuilt that program at Colorado State, and he is going to have to some of that at Florida, especially offensively."
A former defensive lineman at LSU and in the NFL, Spears said McElwain's offensive pedigree should have the Gators excited. He said McElwain's knowledge of the SEC is perhaps his most important attribute.
"I like that fact that he comes to Florida with knowledge of the conference and knowledge of playing big games and winning national championships," Spears said. "Florida needs to get back to being one of the best teams in the SEC because that makes the conference better."
A longtime Alabama media personality prior to launching his ESPN radio show last year, Finebaum remains close to the Alabama program. He said McElwain has some advantages in the timing of his arrival compared to Muschamp.
"He has one great advantage -- he gets to replace Will Muschamp as opposed to Urban Meyer; that was one of Will’s biggest obstacles and he never quite got over it,'' Finebaum said. "Everyone in Tuscaloosa loved this guy. That will help him. Will Muschamp could be rough around the edges, not this guy."
Like Muschamp, McElwain has a down-to-earth personality and background working under Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
McElwain has already started evaluating Florida's roster and said Saturday that Muschamp left him some good players.
"Coach Muschamp has been very helpful,'' McElwain said. "He put together a heck of a staff here that's going to go forward as I've talked to them about going and winning a bowl game. That's what it's all about right now. It's about investing in these young men who are here."
While the pressure to win is immediate at Florida, McElwain spoke about embracing that pressure. He plans to apply pressure on opponents more than feel it.
Tebow understands what McElwain is talking about. He relished playing under a microscope at Florida and became an icon in part by the way he handled it.
"It takes time for success, but let’s be honest – this is the University of Florida,'' Tebow said. "You are supposed to recruit, play in big games, and play for a championship. There is not a long grace period – there is a lot of pressure. My question is how well can Coach Mac handle that pressure?"
McElwain won't run from it. In fact, he prefers to hang out with it.
"You know what, if there's no pressure, why wake up in the morning, right?" he said. "That's really what drives me anyway."
Updated: 4:55pm, December 6
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The press conference is over. For new Gators coach Jim McElwain, that means the real work is about to begin.
McElwain sounds ready for the task ahead.
"You look out and you see that stadium, you think about all the great players, people, tradition that has been built at the University of Florida,'' he said Saturday. "That's something that is so exciting. I grew up in Montana. These are things you dream about."
As McElwain settles into his new job, his UF coaching colleagues offered up a special welcome for McElwain and his family to the Gator Family.
Check out this video that features messsages from Florida's other head coaches to McElwain to help him feel welcome:
As you can imagine, Saturday was pretty busy for McElwain, who was introduced to Gator Nation at an 11 a.m. press conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. However, he was busy making the media rounds well before that.
Here is a glimpse at other McElwain interviews that were broadcast throughout the day on live TV or social media:
First, a "SportsCenter" interview ...
He also made an appearance on ESPN's "SECNation" show ...
And finally, he was perched high above The Swamp in this interview with Gators radio voice Mick Hubert for GatorVision ...
And last but not least, here is McElwain's press conference with local and state media where he discussed a myriad of topics in taking 48 questions ...
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In today's social-media world, it often starts with one tweet.
That was the case on Thursday when ESPN.com reporter Chris Low tweeted these 19 words into the Twittersphere:
The buyout issues have been resolved, and Florida is expected to announce Jim McElwain as its coach later today.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) December 4, 2014
And from there the floodgates opened. Here is more reaction on social media on the day the Gators got a new coach:
To my friends who cover Florida: you win today. Mac is smart and accessible. And he will win games. @CoachMcElwain— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) December 4, 2014
From your permanent SEC Western Division opponent, welcome back to league Coach McElwain. Will enjoy continued great competition w/ Florida.— Les Miles (@LSUCoachMiles) December 4, 2014
Congrats to Coach Mac, Taught me a lot during the season. Very thankful for him. Best wishes to his future pic.twitter.com/1Zhhe30FTB— Ace Boogie✊ (@DGainess1) December 4, 2014
Florida fans rejoice. @CoachMcElwain is the real deal and will have tremendous success in Gainesville. Congratulations to Gators everywhere.
— Greg McElroy (@GVMcElroy) December 4, 2014
Jim McElwain has agreed to become Florida's next head coach. Here's some key facts on the Gators' new leader: pic.twitter.com/iaib6ZcYBN— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 4, 2014
Jim McElwain's university arranged car. Guess he's turning it in. pic.twitter.com/g9CynjRoPp
— Terry Frei (@TFrei) December 4, 2014
Updated: 5:55pm, December 4
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- University of Florida President Bernie Machen was just getting settled here when Florida hired Urban Meyer as head coach in late 2004.
A decade later Machen is set to retire at the end of the year as the Gators welcome another head coach from the Mountain West Conference to town.
The Gators officially announced the hiring of Colorado State coach Jim McElwain on Thursday to replace Will Muschamp. McElwain led the Rams to a 10-2 record this season and was 22-16 in his three seasons at CSU.
Machen released the following statement on McElwain's hiring:
"It is with great pride and excitement that we welcome Coach McElwain and his family to the University of Florida,” he said. "We look forward to his leadership in the pursuit of excellence, both on and off the field.”
Updated: 1:06pm, December 4
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jim McElwain has spent the majority of his 30-year coaching career outside the spotlight. A career assistant until his three-year stint as head coach at Colorado State, McElwain’s most visible role previously was four years as Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Nick Saban.
McElwain was muzzled working under Saban’s “one-voice” policy. However, McElwain’s offenses were not, helping the Crimson Tide win a pair of national titles in his four seasons in Tuscaloosa.
But don’t be fooled. McElwain has a personality to go along with his prolific career as an offensive coordinator. The 24th head coach of the Gators might not be a household name in Gator Nation, but he is well-respected and well-liked by those who know him.
That can be a tricky combination to pull off.
He also isn’t afraid to venture off the beaten path like so many coaches.
Fan interest at Colorado State had dwindled prior to McElwain’s arrival. The Rams were 9-27 in the previous three seasons.
Once the Rams started to win under McElwain, students and fans started to pay more attention.
In mid-October as Colorado State prepared for a key Mountain West Conference showdown with Utah State, McElwain broke away from the office to speak to a couple of classes: Fashion Merchandising and Music Appreciation.
He impressed the professor in the Music Appreciation class by referencing The Cyrkle, a band that charted with hits “Red Rubber Ball” and “Turn Down Day” in the late 1960s. The students had no clue.
It didn’t matter to McElwain. He had fun.
“There seemed to be a little bit of energy on campus and I thought that was pretty cool,’’ McElwain told The Denver Post.
As for his stop in the Fashion Merchandising class?
“I knew absolutely nothing about it and of course, they laughed at what I was wearing, which obviously meant my fashion was not very good,’’ he said.
The 52-year-old McElwain is headed to The Swamp. He’ll be in charge of the Gators soon.
Let’s take a closer look at the man who was born in Missoula, Mont., consumed episodes of “The Partridge Family” growing up, and whose perfect day is hanging out with his family on Montana’s Flathead Lake eating his those legendary barbecue ribs he is known for amongst family and friends:
McElwain started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington, where he played quarterback from 1980-83. While teaching a golf class, he met Karen, his future wife. The couple has three kids – daughters JoHanna, 23, and Elizabeth, 21, and 19-year-old son Jerret.
Growing up in Missoula, Mont., McElwain’s mother Marjorie and father Frank were educators. Marjorie McElwain was an English teacher who also worked at the University of Montana’s ticket office. Frank McElwain was a high school coach, official and principal who passed away in 2009. Jim developed into a talented quarterback at Sentinel (Mont.) High and is one of five siblings.
HIS LAST INTRO
If you don't know much about McElwain or have never heard him speak, here is a glimpse at his introductory press conference nearly three years ago at Colorado State:
CONNECTING WITH PLAYERS
McElwain’s players speak highly of his approach to the game. When Colorado State played at Alabama last season, McElwain’s return to Tuscaloosa was a big story. Several Alabama players shared McElwain stories with the media, including former Crimson Tide offensive lineman Kellen Williams.
“In camp two or three years ago, he brought in a picture of a dead fish and a picture of a Charlie Tuna,’’ Williams told The Anniston (Ala.) Star. “He said, ‘we have too many dead fish in here,’ and he put up the dead fish. Then he goes, ‘I want you to be like this guy,’ and he put up the picture of Charlie Tuna. Everybody broke out laughing.”
At a recent press conference to preview a big game at Colorado State, McElwain referenced such topics as Johnny Carson’s monologue, Randy Jackson’s role in Earth, Wind and Fire, and how the offense sometimes closes meetings with Winnie the Pooh references.
Hey, it seems to work.
“It kind of keeps us loose, but at the same time he expects us to be on point, doing what we’ve got to do to continue winning,’’ Rams linebacker Kevin Davis told the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera. “Mac’s definitely making it fun, but he’s keeping us on point, keeping us focused.”
McElwain has changed his system over the years to fit his job. The Rams feature a balanced spread attack that includes quarterback (Garrett Grayson) with more than 3,700 yards passing and 32 touchdowns, a running back (Dee Hart) with more than 1,200 yards rushing and a receiver (Rashard Higgins) with more than 1,600 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.
At Alabama McElwain relied more on pro-style offense that relied heavily on the run with 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. He was known to toss a wildcat package into the game plan on occasion. If there is a common theme, it’s that McElwain has produced results.
When Saban searched for an offensive coordinator after the 2007 season, he landed on McElwain after reviewing what McElwain did in his one season at Fresno State on Pat Hill’s staff. Saban and Hill had worked together under Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns.
The numbers: In McElwain’s season at Fresno State the Bulldogs averaged 419.5 yards a game and 32.9 points a game. The previous season Fresno State averaged 338.2 yards and 23 points.
FIRST GAME AS HEAD COACH
Colorado State opened McElwain’s tenure with a 22-17 win over Colorado in 2012. McElwain became the first Rams coach to win his debut since 1970.
Before each game McElwain writes the names of his three kids on three sticks of gum. He writes his father’s name on another piece of gum. He carries the gum in his pocket during every game and afterward hands the three sticks to his kids, the stick with his father’s name to Karen.
“All the hours you put in, all the time you put in, you realize what it’s for and what it’s about,’’ McElwain told The Denver Post. “It’s about my family.”
McElwain attended Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Missoula, Mont., and was a grade behind a famous classmate who has also done well in Colorado: former Broncos quarterback John Elway.
“Yeah, he put up with my cooking. It was unbelievable. He actually smiled and said he liked it. I don’t know if he really did or not.’’ – McElwain on having former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron over one year for Thanksgiving dinner
“The biggest thing about Coach Mac is I think he’s a teacher first. He’s a great teacher of the game. You can tell he really has a passion for that. And he’s extremely gifted at that, just the way he breaks down offenses and helps up understand it.’’ – Former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones
“When you’re building a house, the most important part’s the foundation. Sometimes guys maybe want to take shortcuts to get instant results, but on the backend, your house falls down. That’s not what we’re about.” – McElwain on approach when he took over Colorado State program
“He was an unbelievable coach for me, not only as a player, but as a person. He just taught me a lot about life, hot to act, what to do, what not to do. He means the world to me.’’ – McCarron on McElwain’s influence
“From an offensive philosophy standpoint, in terms of what we want to accomplish – show balance, make explosive plays, be a good third-down team, make first downs in the red area, don’t turn the ball over – all of these things were very important philosophically to Jim.’’ – Saban on his interview with McElwain
Editor’s note: A variety of sources was used to compile this information, including The Denver Post, US Official Newswire, The Missoulian, The Anniston Star, The Decatur Daily, The Dothan Eagle, ESPN.com, SI.com, and Boulder Daily Camera.
Updated: 2:11pm, November 26
Gators quarterback Treon Harris committed to FSU prior to signing with Florida. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jameis Winston is the quarterback most will be focused on Saturday during the Florida-Florida State game.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is a perfect 24-0 as FSU's starting quarterback and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every one of those starts.
However, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher is very familiar with Gators quarterback Treon Harris. Harris verbally committed to FSU before changing his mind and signing with Florida.
Harris suffered a bruised knee in last week's win against Eastern Kentucky but is expected to start on Saturday in Tallahassee according to Gators coach Will Muschamp.
“Treon is one of those guys that I always say, 'be quick but don’t hurry.' When you watch him play, it’s like everyone around him is going 1,000 miles an hour and he’s going five miles an hour," Fisher told reporters this week. "But no one can catch him or touch him."
Since replacing Jeff Driskel as the starter, Harris has led Florida to three wins in four games. He would be undefeated if not for the late-game collapse against South Carolina when an apparent game-icing touchdown run by Harris was wiped out by a penalty.
Harris has thrown for 727 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He has added 250 yards rushing, which ranks third on the team.
While his accuracy has suffered lately due to an injured fingernail -- Harris is 9 of 23 in the past two games -- he remains a threat in Fisher's view.
And despite Harris' switch from the Seminoles to the Gators, Fisher enjoyed the experience of getting to know Harris and his family.
"He’s fun to be around. I enjoyed being around him," Fisher said. "He’s a heck of a player. That’s why we recruited him.”
Fisher is also familiar with Driskel. He is the last quarterback to knock off the Seminoles.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Driskel completed 15 of 23 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown in Florida's 37-26 win at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Updated: 5:34pm, November 24
Gators coach Becky Burleigh, center, after Sunday's win over Texas Tech. (Photo: Jim Burgess)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Becky Burleigh planned to spend part of her Monday afternoon figuring out Thanksgiving plans.
Not that she minded one turkey leg.
In her 20th season in charge of the Gators women’s soccer program, Burleigh can’t think of a better place to spend this Thanksgiving than Palo Alto, Calif., home of Stanford University.
If the Gators had lost Sunday in the NCAA Sweet 16, they would have parted ways for Thanksgiving. Instead, they defeated Texas Tech, 3-2, to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 11 years.
The victory came with a cross-country trip to Stanford, where Florida (17-4-1) will face No. 3-ranked Stanford (20-1-2) on Friday night for a Final Four berth.
“The fact we get to spend the holiday together as a group, I think that’s important to us,’’ Burleigh said Monday. “I don’t think our team minds that dynamic at all. They enjoy each other’s company.”
Since losing to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament on penalty kicks, Florida has responded with three consecutive wins in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Mercer, Cal and Texas Tech.
Next stop: Cagan Stadium, where the Cardinal knocked off the Gators 1-0 in September.
Stanford won its 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament game at home on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Washington. The game-winner was scored on a goal by senior Lo’eau LaBonta off a penalty.
LaBonta did the same in Stanford’s second-round win over Arkansas. And in the first meeting against Florida, it was LaBonta’s score in overtime that defeated Florida.
Needless to say the Gators defense will keep a close eye on LaBonta on Friday night.
For now Burleigh and Co. are searching for ways to extend their season to the College Cup – and working out details on how they will spend Thanksgiving.
Burleigh likes where her team is headed.
“I’m just really thankful to our team for winning so that we get to spend more time together because it’s been really fun with this group,’’ Burleigh said. “I think the best part about this team so far is that we still have not played our best soccer. For us, that’s really exciting because when we can do that, I think we’re really hard to beat.”
Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and his daughter after Saturday's win. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Now that the Gators are bowl eligible they have a bowl coach.
Following Saturday's 52-3 win over Eastern Kentucky to clinch bowl eligibility -- Florida improved to 6-4 in head coach Will Muschamp's final home game -- the Gators announced that defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will serve as head coach for Florida's bowl game.
Durkin is in his second season as the Gators' defensive coordinator and fifth year on Florida's staff. He joined the program in 2010 as special teams coordinator and remained on staff when Muschamp replaced Urban Meyer after the 2010 season.
Durkin replaced Dan Quinn as the team's defensive coordinator when Quinn left after the 2012 season for the same position with the Seattle Seahawks.
Updated: 2:33pm, November 19
Dante Fowler Jr. greets fans during the Gator Walk prior to the South Carolina game. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – He’s not a senior, but defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is prepared to play his final game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.
One of the most gifted recruits the Gators landed under outgoing head coach Will Muschamp, Fowler announced via Twitter on Tuesday night that he will enter the NFL Draft rather than return for his senior season.
“I came in with champ. I'm leaving with Him. Simple as that,’’ Fowler tweeted.
A 6-foot-3, 261-pound speed rusher from St. Petersburg, Fowler is a highly-ranked prospect with first-round potential in April’s draft.
“Yes. There’s no question in my mind,’’ Muschamp said Wednesday when asked if Fowler was a first-rounder. “Somebody is going to be very lucky to have him.”
Fowler leads the Gators with 4 ½ sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries through nine games. He also has two forced fumbles and ranks third on the team with 49 tackles. While Fowler has amassed on 10 ½ career sacks, Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said not to be deceived by the stats.
The tape tells the truer story.
“He’s a very disruptive guy,’’ Durkin said. “He’s a guy who’s accounted for every single time he lines up by the opposition. They have a plan for him and he’s overcome that and been disruptive for us. He’s been great for us. He’s played hard, he’s play consistently. I’m very happy with how he’s play.
“I’m not an NFL expert but I think Dante is a really good player and will probably be drafted very high.”
Durkin said he has not spoken to Fowler about the decision and learned about it on Twitter like others. Muschamp’s stance has always been that if a player is a certain first-round NFL pick, then he should leave. If not, he should come back.
Based on what Muschamp and Durkin said Wednesday, sounds like Fowler made the right decision.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators host South Carolina today in a key SEC East showdown for Florida. The Gators must win to keep their hopes of a division title alive.
Only if they could play the South Carolina team that ran onto the field 50 years ago in this matchup. If so, the Gators would romp today at The Swamp.
Imagine some frat guys pulling a prank on Homecoming. Imagine the worst Gamecocks team to ever step onto the field. They didn't stay out there long that day at Florida Field, but they made an impression during their brief time in the spotlight.
Gators historian Norm Carlson wrote about A Great Gator Hoax in 2006 to celebrate 100 years of Florida football. Since this is the 50-year anniversary, enjoy another trip down Memory Lane.
Updated: 1:18pm, November 14
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- From top to bottom, from football to gymnastics to lacrosse, the University of Florida's athletic department is the most dominant college sports program in the country.
No, that's not some random opinion from a guy who writes for GatorZone.com, the UAA's official website.
Instead, the ranking comes from a poll released Thursday by BusinessInsider.com, which explained its ranking system in the following paragraph:
To create the ranking we used data compiled by Niche for its college rankings as well as athletic department revenues compiled by USA Today.
A number of factors go into the rankings with the most weight given to athletics revenue, Niche's NCAA championship score (with more weight given to bigger sports), average home football attendance, average home men's basketball attendance, as well as Niche's student survey responses.
Bottom line, not only do Gator fans think highly of UF's athletic department, so do many others.
The top five: 1. Florida; 2. Alabama; 3. North Carolina; 4. Texas; 5. LSU.
Updated: 4:39pm, November 11
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel scores on a 1-yard plunge at Vanderbilt. (Photo: Tim Casey)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel has received more than his fair share of vile messages from anonymous critics on social media this season.
The fourth-year junior has stayed on the high road through what has been a disappointing season for Florida’s opening-day starter, which is not surprising to anyone who has been around Driskel during his UF career.
Driskel didn’t know it until Tuesday on Veterans Day, but he has a big fan in retired U.S. Navy Capt. E.R. Gilkison, whose letter to Driskel ended up on social media Tuesday.
Driskel is from a Navy family.
He was born in Jacksonville and lived there for the first few years of his life while his parents, Mary and Jerry Driskel, worked for the U.S. Navy. A Naval senior chief, Jerry was assigned to the U.S. Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan, when Driskel was 7.
Driskel had read the letter by Tuesday afternoon when he met with reporters.
"Before we get started here, I just want to say Happy Veterans Day to all the vets out there,'' Driskel said. "I'd also like to say thanks to Capt. Gilkison, who sent me a nice letter. I saw it on the Internet today and that was one of the most heart-warming things that I've ever gotten."