University of Florida

New coach Jim McElwain: Florida Gators have ‘a lot of ground to make up’

Jim McElwain is introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Florida on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
Jim McElwain is introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Florida on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. TNS

Jim McElwain knows Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So Florida’s new coach is utilizing the same philosophy to restore the Gators’ football program.

“I’m not real patient by nature,” he said.

“But, at the same time, I also understand that there’s a lot of things that need to be taken care of before we are successful on an every-day basis.”

Four years ago, Florida was broken, and the Gators went just 11-13 the past two seasons under former coach Will Muschamp.

Now, McElwain inherits a flawed program, one with plenty of positives — and problems.

“I’m very patient in what we’re doing because I believe you’ve got to get this right from the start,” McElwain said.

“And that’s not only with the coaching [hires], that’s with everything that is involved with touching the desk of the head football coach.”

McElwain, 52, officially took over Monday, meeting with the team and introducing six new assistants.

He handed out his first assignment to his players: Get to know the coaches.

McElwain has been tasked with resurrecting a blemished brand, and he’s taking a CEO approach to the overhaul, imitating the organizational style of his former mentor and boss Nick Saban at Alabama.

Like Saban, McElwain operates on an 18-month calendar and views every day “as a chance to get better.”

He wants to rebuild Florida’s infrastructure, so he’s evaluating the organization’s pros and cons with players during one-on-one interviews.

“They’ve got an assignment to come in with thoughts and ideas about the organization, about the program,” he explained.

“Part of that is in the evaluation of the things that are really good, some of the things maybe we need to work on. And what you find out when you do this, is you may find a common thread within everybody, some things that come up more than once, more than twice. There’s a lot of outliers, and yet there’s some things that then kind of allow us to attack the organization and the infrastructure as to what direction we need to go.”

McElwain has already hit the ground running on the recruiting trail, but the Gators have struggled to gain traction during the coaching turnover.

“We’ve gotten some great buzz, yet time will tell as we move forward,” McElwain said.

Florida is last in the Southeastern Conference and 78th nationally in team recruiting rankings, per 247sports.

The Gators have just eight verbal commits in their 2015 class, with 28 available scholarships.

“We’re trying to catch up a little bit from behind. I get it. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I’ve been doing this for a while. We’ve got a lot of ground to make up, so this next two weeks is obviously going to be crucial to us making a dent. Does that make sense? But you know what, when we took the job we knew that there would be some [challenges]. It’s going to take a while.”

Meanwhile, McElwain is injecting UF’s current roster with new energy and excitement, imploring his players to embrace change and affect each other in a positive way.

“The last thing I want is a bunch of dead trout hanging around. It’s about energy and affecting the people around you in a positive way,” he said.

“Those are the things we’re doing right now.”

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