Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer both were successful coaches at Florida, despite contrasting dynamics. Spurrier exuded confidence in his quarterbacks, airing the ball out.
Meyer, on the other hand, was balanced in his approach mixing run and pass, while displaying solid defense. Current Gators’ head coach Jim McElwain isn’t a stranger to the SEC.
He won two national championships with Alabama in 2009 and 2011 as its offensive coordinator. McElwain was a staple for the Crimson Tide from 2008-11, until he became Colorado State’s head coach on Dec. 13, 2011.
He guided the Rams to two consecutive winning seasons in 2013 (8-6) and 2014 (10-2), prior to returning the SEC as Florida’s head coach. McElwain is excited to be back in the SEC, and despite the difference between Spurrier and Meyer, McElwain said Florida’s offense will be balanced this season.
“I think background-wise, just historically, growing up out West and kind of being in the Big Sky Conference, as long as we were, we threw it around a bit,” McElwain said. “That’s something we believe in. Yet at the end of the day, you learn as you kind of go through that you’ve got to be able to run the ball.”
Florida finished fifth nationally in total defense last season. The Gators return seven starters to the group, and will look to continue being impressive. Continuity will be imperative for the experience and youth of this team.
“We are going to have to lean on our returning starters as we introduce some of these younger guys,” McElwain said. “It’s up to the offense to take some of the heat off them as well. It goes hand in hand.”
He even took time to address Florida’s special teams, and said it needs to be able to flip field position and force opponents’ to drive the length of the field. Coach McElwain didn’t shy away from giving compliments, especially to Florida’s junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
He said Hargreaves comes ready to work every day.
“The way he practices, the way he thrives in competition, and not only that, the way he takes care of himself in the classroom and other things that go along with being successful in life,” McElwain said. “I’ll tell you, here’s the best thing, he’s fun to watch practice. The guy loves it. He’s great to watch on tape.”
McElwain has no problem giving credit where its due, as he holds a close relationship with Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban. He expressed about how blessed he was to receive an opportunity at the University of Alabama.
“Obviously, being involved in the SEC for those four years was something that I kind of helped a little bit,” McElwain said. “I’ve been fortunate to be around some great coaches. The one thing that each of them have echoed, and Coach Saban echoed it before I left for Colorado State, at the end of the day, you’ve got to do it the way you do it.”
The two former Alabama boys are back together again, as offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is at Florida with McElwain. Nussmeier won a national title with Alabama in 2012 as its play caller. McElwain said Nussmeier’s experience in the SEC is good, and that he is excited to have this opportunity to get back with these guys and implement a system.