Friday, April 20, 2018
Sports

Spurrier ... Meyer ... and now McElwain

Colorado State went 10-2 with head coach Jim McElwain last year. Now he is gone and the Rams are bumping along at 3-5 without him, including a 41-17 home loss to San Diego State on Saturday night.

In other news, Florida went 10-13 the past two seasons with a coach who wasn't ready for the job. Now, with McElwain in charge, the Gators are 7-1 and on track for a spot in the SEC Championship game.

I'm detecting a pattern here.

It's the same pattern that Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer followed in their first seasons at Florida, taking a pair of 7-5 teams that were talented but underutilized and promptly coaxing nine-win seasons out of the same basic rosters.

Spurrier won an SEC title in Year 2 in Gainesville, and Meyer's second Gators team won it all, taking the BCS national championship with a group of players who were still generally considered to be about a year away from something so grand.

What does that say about McElwain?

Not enough. Not yet. He still doesn't have a top-grade quarterback or the experience of a showdown with Jimbo Fisher and Florida State, or the certainty of a top-10 recruiting class to keep the river rising.

There's something that finally looks right here, though, and sounds right, too.

McElwain, the offensive coordinator for two of Nick Saban's national title teams at Alabama, has no difficulty seeing his Gators beating anybody on the schedule, or anybody who might show up on it in the postseason.

Following Saturday's 27-3 win over Georgia, McElwain said, "I don't expect to lose and I think we should never come into an event thinking we are going to come in second.

"It doesn't matter who we play. We go in with the mindset that we are going to put a plan together and do whatever it takes to win the football game. You know, we slipped up in that one a couple weeks ago and gave up some big plays, so we learn from it and we've just got to keep moving forward."

He's talking about a 35-28 loss at LSU, and a frantic week of preparation for that game that began with the year-long suspension of quarterback Will Grier for failing an NCAA test for performance-enhancing drugs. Grier blew it big-time, and at a time when he was just taking off with the Florida offense. But it took a 180-yard rushing performance by LSU Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette and a classic trick-play touchdown call from Les Miles to pin the loss on Florida.

The Gators aren't perfect, even on defense, and they need a lot more from quarterback Treon Harris than they're getting, but McElwain continues to see room to grow.

Against Georgia, for instance, Harris teamed up with freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway for a scramble-drill pass that went for a 66-yard touchdown. Callaway, a star on Booker T. Washington's state championship team in Miami, didn't have to stick with his commitment to Florida during the coaching change, but McElwain made him a priority, and now McElwain is making Harris a priority, too.

"Guys, at the end of the day, the guy is 2-0 in this (Georgia) ballgame as a starter," McElwain said of Harris. "That means something. I am proud of him."

There's a pattern here, all right, and even if it gets a little wrinkled between now and season's end, the Gators and their new coach have partnered up on something that worked in years past and will work again.

— Palm Beach Post

 
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