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Florida hires Jim McElwain: Nine numbers that explain his career

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There's a lot for Gators to learn about Jim McElwain. Here are nine numbers to know.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Two

National titles Jim McElwain won at Alabama with Nick Saban, earning them as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator. And McElwain did so with Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron at quarterback, and over defenses coordinated by Will Muschamp (2009 Texas) and John Chavis (2011 LSU) that had given up fewer than 200 points entering that national title game 1.

The number of teams nationally with a quarterback who has thrown for 3,500 yards, a running back who has rushed for 1,000 yards, and a receiver who has more than 1,000 receiving yards. One is USC, with Cody Kessler, Javorius Allen, and Nelson Agholor. The other is Colorado State, with Garrett Grayson, Dee Hart, and Rashard Higgins.

Three

Wins by Colorado State against FBS teams that will finish with winning records this season, which are also McElwain's only wins against FBS winning records in his Colorado State tenure. And all three wins — over Boston College, Nevada, and Utah State — came by seven points or fewer.

This is undeniably one of the key stats that pessimists will use in arguments against McElwain.

Four

McElwain-coached quarterbacks who have gone on to make NFL rosters: Fresno State's Tom Brandstater, and Alabama's John Parker Wilson, McElroy, and McCarron.

If I may reiterate: Jim McElwain helped John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy, and A.J. McCarron make NFL rosters.

Seven

Seasons in which FBS offenses with McElwain at the helm have scored at least 30 points per game, out of a possible eight, since 2007. The lone season in which a Mac Attack failed to top 30 points per game was 2012, his first season at Colorado State, which we'll get to later.

Nine

Consecutive wins by Colorado State in 2014, bookended by losses to New Year's Six-bowl bound Boise State and 9-3 Air Force. Florida's last streak of nine or more consecutive wins was, of course, ended by Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game — in which McElwain was calling plays for the Crimson Tide.

10

Wins by Colorado State in 2014, one shy of the school record. The Rams have won 10 games just three times in their history.

1,640

Receiving yards by Colorado State's Rashard Higgins this year, which leads the nation. Yes, a receiver coached by McElwain leads the nation in receiving yards, not Amari Cooper.

In fact, here's the statistical comparison:

Rashard Higgins Amari Cooper National Leader
Receptions 89 103 106
Yards 1,640 1,573 1,640
Yards Per Reception 18.4 15.3 18.4 2
Touchdowns 17 14 17

Note to Demarcus Robinson: Get ready.

2012

The year McElwain's Colorado State team went 4-8, and the foundation for any rigorous argument against his coaching acumen. Colorado State wasn't good in 2012, starting the year 1-6 before a 3-2 finish that included wins over three teams with a combined eight wins on the season. The Rams were 102nd in both total offense (two spots ahead of Florida) and scoring offense (behind Florida) in 2012, gave up 31 or more points six times, and ranked 119th of 124 FBS teams in F/+, with one of their wins coming over No. 124 Colorado.

In 2013, Colorado State went 8-6, finished 24th in total offense and 22nd in scoring offense, scored 30 or more points nine times, won the New Mexico Bowl over Washington State, and rocketed up an astounding 53 spots in F/+, finishing at No. 66. And all that came despite a 1-3 start that included a loss to Colorado, a braining at Alabama, and a lone win coming over FCS Cal Poly.

That sort of lends credence to assessments like this one, from longtime NFL talent evaluator John Middlekauff:

2014 was even better for McElwain than 2013, and I'll describe that more in a later article, but McElwain rebounded from a bad record with a very bad team in 2012 to create a program that was decent in 2013, and used that to spring into an excellent 2014. That's a great sign.

$11.3 million

The cost, in buyouts and guaranteed money paid by Florida to Will Muschamp and Colorado State, of changing coaches from Muschamp to McElwain. This sum — $6.3 million of which is due to Muschamp, and $5 million of which will be paid to Colorado State in cash and payment for a game to be played in Gainesville from 2017 to 2020 — is titanic, and close to 10 percent of recent typical operating expenses in Florida's annual budget for its entire athletic program.

And while Florida can afford it — Jeremy Foley and the Gators would absolutely not have made this move if that were not the case — that figure will be sufficient ammunation to be used over and over again against Foley and his athletic program should McElwain not be a success.

Star-divide


  1. Alabama had given up fewer than 200 points prior to the BCS National Championship in each of its three national championship campaigns since 2009. McElwain's offense defeated two of the four other teams since 2009 to show up with fewer than 200 points against for BCS title games, and his players, coached by Doug Nussmeier, slammed a third. (The fourth non-Alabama defense to show up with fewer than 200 points against for its title fight, for the record, was 2013 Florida State.)

  2. Among the 55 receivers nationally with more than 60 catches. Among all qualified players, Higgins is 24th in yards per catch, but ranks behind just one other player with even 60 receptions, Michigan State's Tony Lippett.