On Day One of SEC Media Days, the conference’s newest head coach was thrown into the fire in Alabama. Florida head coach Jim McElwain made his SEC Media Day debut as the man in charge of resurrecting the glory days of Gators football, and the media was there to remind him of that mission. How soon can it happen? How will it happen? What makes him think he can do it?
“I think part of the experience of being in this conference is realizing it doesn’t happen just overnight,” Mcelwain responded when asked about an expected timeline before Florida can realistically start thinking about being not just a contender in the SEC, but the national championship hunt as well. “It’s something that we know. And yet every time we go to work every day, every time we wake up, our responsibility is to try to go out there and win. There’s never been a game that we haven’t been in that we don’t think we’re going to go out and be successful, and that’s really what it’s all about. We’ve got a ways to go, and yet there are some good things in place.
It helps that McElwain has some experience being a part of a national championship program. McElwain has two national championship rings from his time as an offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama. His success in that position catapulted him into a head coach at Colorado State, where he did an admirable job in turning the Rams around in the Mountian West Conference. A return to the SEC made for an easy transition for McElwain and allowed him to jump right in without needing to get too caught up to speed about coaching in the conference. But will he stick to the formulas that have worked in Florida’s history under Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer to make a push to win a national title down the road? Don’t count on it. It does not sound as though Florida is about to return to a fun-n-gun style of offense, but McElwain did give reason to believe he is going to try opening things up.
“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 the park quite a bit, and that’s something we believe in,” McElwain said. “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 and stop the run to be successful. So that being said, fitting the parts in that we have and finding out how exactly we’re going to go about it is something that we look forward to building as we get there in August.”
Florida’s struggles on offense the last few years with Will Muschamp (now Auburn’s defensive coordinator) have been well-documented. Last season the Gators were 12th in the SEC in passing offense with 179.9 passing yards per game and 18 total touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. It was the second straight season the Gators finished 12th in the conference in passing offense. The Gators finsihed 14th in the 14-team conference in passing offense in 2012. In the last three seasons combined, the Gators have thrown 42 touchdowns. For the sake of comparison, Oregon quarterback and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner tossed 42 touchdown passes last season, although that stat includes three postseason games (Pac-12 Championship Game, Rose Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship Game). But you get the idea. McElwain will not have anyone of Mariota’s caliber to work with this season, but the trends should start swinging the other way for Florida’s passing game this fall.