Usually, this time of year brings one pretty common question to college football programs around the country. Who is going to be the starting quarterback? While Michigan is indeed looking to have an answer to that down the line, the Wolverines are also trying to figure out just who exactly will be in charge of calling the offensive plays from the sideline.
As Michigan got their spring practices underway the other day, head coach Jim Harbaugh says that is a decision that has not been made amid a handful of coaching staff changes this offseason.
“Well, I haven’t decided,” Harbaugh said Friday, according to MLive.com. “It really comes down to who the play caller is going to be and how we’re going to call plays. If that’s what you’re asking, I haven’t really decided yet.”
Michigan recently put the finishing touches on a new contract for Ed Wariner and also added former Florida head coach Jim McElwain to the staff this offseason. Passing-game coordinator Pep Hamilton is another candidate for the play-calling responsibilities too after already being on the staff. Tim Drevno stepped down as offensive coordinator in February.
The importance of revitalizing the Michigan offense cannot be overstated. Michigan ranked 105th in the nation in total offense in 2017, averaging 348.9 yards per game. Only Illinois and Rutgers averaged fewer yards per game among Big Ten programs last fall. The Wolverines had issues at the quarterback position all season long too, resulting in the nation’s 111th-ranked passing offense with just nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Maryland, Minnesota, and Rutgers were the only passing offenses in the Big Ten to average fewer passing yards per game.
Meanwhile, Michigan is still holding out hope to have Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson ruled eligible to play this season. A hold-up in the NCAA transfer process is keeping Patterson among those in limbo right now.
The Florida Gators turned the page on the 2017 season by attempting to breathe new life into the program coming off a tumultuous season on and off the field. A season was essentially lost before it ever could truly get going when wide receiver Antonio Callaway was suspended for the season as part of a felony fraud case and a drug charge over the summer, as well as being connected to a Title IX investigation. As the now former Gator prepares for the NFL, he is faced with questions regarding his past in Gainesville, and he is shouldering blame on his shoulders for how it all came to an end for Jim McElwain as head coach of the Gators.
As reported by Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter Trevor Sikkema, via Twitter, Callaway says McElwain may still be the head coach at Florida (and not an assistant coach at Michigan) if Callaway played last season.
Callaway may not be too far off the mark. Callaway was the explosive playmaker Florida desperately needed last season. Callaway was Florida’s leading receiver in 2016 with 721 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore and a team-high 678 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. Callaway also returned two punts for touchdowns in 2015, proving to be a threat any time he stepped foot on the field during his two seasons on the field at Florida. Would Callaway have been able to turn a team that went 4-7 into a team that could muster together enough wins to save McElwain’s job?
Considering Florida lost three of their seven games by a single score, the case could be made that Callaway may have been able to save McElwain’s job. But McElwain pretty much talked his own way out of the job by throwing out the idea his family was being targeted and never being able to provide the evidence asked of him.
Florida replaced McElwain with Dan Mullen, previously of Mississippi State, as their new head coach.
The Jim McElwain watch in Ann Arbor is essentially done. ESPN reports the former head coach of the Florida Gators has signed a deal to join Jim Harbaugh as a new member of the Michigan coaching staff. Michigan has not formally announced the new addition yet, but McElwain told ESPN he is getting to work right away as a wide receivers coach.
“I’m excited to get back into it and am looking forward to going there and learning and helping Michigan get better,” McElwain said to ESPN‘s Chris Low, who reported the latest update in the ongoing McElwain-To-Michigan story. It has been quite a year for McElwain, who has now gone from wanting to “beat the heck out of Michigan” to joining Harbaugh as an offensive assistant (Harbaugh was 2-0 against McElwain in head-to-head meetings between Michigan and Florida).
McElwain was fired by Florida last October in the midst of a disappointing season after discrepancies in McElwain’s claims about receiving death threats could not be backed up by the coach. Florida bought out McElwain’s contract at a reported $7.5 million.
Michigan had been looking to fill the role of receivers coach following the abrupt departure of Dan Enos to Alabama. Enos joined the Michigan coaching staff for a cup of coffee, getting hired in January after the Arkansas coaching staff was given an overhaul with the firing of Bret Bielema only to leave for a job with Nick Saban. McElwain, of course, is one of many coaches to jump into head coaching off the Saban coaching tree in recent years, first with Colorado State and most recently with Florida.
Previous reports have floated the idea McElwain will call plays for the Wolverines, but that remains unconfirmed.
After a couple of days of intense rumors, it appears Jim McElwain has come to the end of the road as Florida’s head coach. McElwain has been fired as head coach of the Florida Gators, as first reported by FootballScoop. Florida has since officially announced the decision to mutually part ways with McElwain.
According to the report from FootballScoop, the decision to part ways between the program and the head coach were made today. Rumors over the weekend speculated that discussions were on going to focus on potential negotiations revolving around removing McElwain with the two sides reportedly not being very close on any agreement. After those reports surfaced, Florida then proceeded to be run over by Georgia in Jacksonville, 42-7.
McElwain compiled a record of 22-12 in his two and a half years on the job at Florida. The Gators made back-to-back appearances in the SEC Championship Game but the Gators never seemed to develop offensively under McElwain’s run. Florida had gone 2-1 against Georgia, 1-1 in bowl games and 0-2 against Florida State with no real hope for a brighter future in sight. McElwain also got himself in some troubled water in the past week by mentioning alleged death threats he had received this season. That was later brought into question with little support.
Florida, at 3-4 and 3-3 in SEC play, must win three of their final four games to go to a postseason bowl game.
UPDATE: Florida has officially announced they have mutually agreed to part ways with McElwain. Assistant coach Randy Shannon will take over as interim head coach.
During Florida’s home victory over Vanderbilt, starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was forced to leave the game late in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. Visibly upset about the injury as he walked off the field, Del Rio’s biggest fear may have just been realized.
Speaking to the media after the win, Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced Del Rio will be scheduled for surgery on Monday. The surgery is expected to sideline Del Rio for the remainder of the 2017 college football season.
Del Rio appeared to land on the same shoulder he had surgically repaired last year when he was brought down by a Vanderbilt defender.
Del Rio had just been handed the starting job for the Gators following last week’s road win at Kentucky, but now the job will be handed right back to Feleipe Franks. Franks lost the starting job to Del Rio but came in off the sideline to help lead Florida to a win against Vanderbilt.