The Wolverine

March 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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72 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2018 BY CHRIS BALAS A fter several weeks of specu- lation, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh finalized his coaching staff Feb. 20 with a somewhat familiar foe — former Florida head man Jim McElwain. Harbaugh and his new addition have faced off twice in the past three years, first in the 2016 Citrus Bowl, a 41-7 Michigan win, and in last year's Ad- vocare Classic in Arlington, Texas, a 33-17 Wolverines victory. McElwain, a 33-year coaching vet- eran, confirmed with he'd signed a contract and was slated to begin work Sunday, Feb. 18, coach- ing wide receivers. He also indicated he'd be involved in helping to coor- dinate the offense and preparing the weekly game plan. "I'm excited to get back into it and am looking forward to going there and learning and helping Michigan get better," McElwain said. Terms of his contract were not re- leased, but ESPN reported the coach reached a $7.5 million, unmitigated buyout with the Gators, meaning his Michigan salary wouldn't impact it. McElwain, who turns 56 March 1, became the first coach in SEC history to lead his team to the SEC cham- pionship game in each of his first two seasons in 2015 and 2016, but he lost both games to Alabama. He was named the SEC Coach of the Year fol- lowing his debut campaign. He finished 22-12 in two-plus years with the Gators, going 10-4 and 9-4 in his first two seasons. He was 3-4 when Florida fired him in 2017 fol- lowing a 42-7 loss to Georgia. Prior to his stint at Florida, McEl- wain led Colorado State to 18 wins over his last two seasons (following a 4-8 debut) after serving as offensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban on both the 2009 and 2011 na- tional championship teams. In 2014, CSU averaged 480.9 yards per game (18th in the country) and McElwain was named the Mountain West Con- ference Coach of the Year after going 10-2 (he did not coach the team's loss in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl). He's also got some experience in an area in which Harbaugh appears intrigued. Harbaugh, after watching the Super Bowl, told radio host Dan Patrick he was impressed with some of the run-pass option (RPO) sets Philadelphia used to keep New Eng- land's defense off balance and put up 41 points in an eight-point win. With RPO, the quarterback reads the defense after the snap and has the option to hand off or pull the ball in and throw. "The off-balance nature, Philadel- phia did a tremendous job of mixing their calls," Harbaugh said. "They had a lot of volume in their offense. I was extremely impressed with [head coach] Doug Pederson. "There's going to be a lot to watch, and you'll see a lot of coaches who watch this game. The RPO factor … how did the Patriots attempt to de- fend that scheme? I don't know how many run-pass options there were by Philadelphia in the game, but I'll be interested in knowing that. We'll study that. I know there were maybe a dozen." McElwain has plenty of experi- ence with it. Following a game with UMass in 2015, after he was ques- tioned for running the ball 26 times while dropping back 47 times, he of- fered some insight to a fan on his radio show who questioned whether it was due to the RPO. "It was interesting because after the game, one of the reporters made a big deal about 47 throws," he said. "Well, you've got to understand that playing the position of quarterback, No. 1, the The 10th Man Jim Harbaugh Hires Former Florida Head Coach Jim McElwain In addition to stints as the head coach at Colorado State (2012-14) and Florida (2015-17) — where he went a combined 44-28 — McElwain has been an offensive assistant at Louisville, Michigan State and Alabama, among other stops. He also coached quarterbacks for the Oakland Raiders in 2006. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

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