ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim McElwain joins a coaching staff at Michigan whose hallmark is being aggressive on the recruiting trail.
He’ll coach the wide receivers, but recruiting will be a part of his job responsibilities. As the head coach at Florida and Colorado State, McElwain made the final pitch to recruits. As an assistant to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, he’ll likely do more of the legwork in recruiting.
National recruiting analysts say McElwain will have to step up his efforts as a recruiter on Michigan’s staff.
“Jim McElwain isn’t a game-changer on the recruiting trail,” said Barton Simmons, 247Sports’ director of football scouting. “He’s capable. He’s got an engaging personality and has had relative success as a recruiter at every stop. But when he was at Alabama, he wasn’t one of Nick Saban’s aces. When he was at Florida, things took a slight dip from Will Muschamp and Urban Meyer before him. So Jim McElwain doesn’t come to Ann Arbor as a weak link on the recruiting trail but unless his approach has changed, I wouldn’t expect him to be leading the charge either.”
Florida’s recruiting classes with Jim McElwain as coach
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Florida had strong recruiting classes with McElwain at the helm but not as strong as those of his predecessors. In the 10 years before McElwain became the coach, Florida had two No. 1 classes — 2007 and 2010 — along with a No. 2 class and a pair of No. 3 classes. Florida never finished the national recruiting rankings lower than No. 12 in that span, according to 247Sports.
“Michigan needs McElwain to be a good evaluator,” said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ national recruiting director. “Once you evaluate, then you want a guy who’s going to build a good relationship with a player and his family.
“Michigan’s a school that has to recruit nationally to win the national championships. Coaches on the trail need to have effort, but that’s a challenge for every coach. Some of them are up for it. Will McElwain be up for it? Time will tell.”
ESPNU radio host Chris Childers, however, points to McElwain’s ties to the southeast as a factor in helping Michigan on the recruiting trail.
As Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2008-11, McElwain helped the Crimson Tide land recruiting classes with top-3 national rankings each year.
“The best recruiting team this century is Alabama,” Childers said. “Nobody recruits the same level. Jim [McElwain] was a part of that and was an integral part of the early success of Alabama. There’s a reason other schools are trying to pluck assistants from Alabama — Jeremy Pruitt, Mario Cristobal, Kirby Smart … Everyone wants a piece of the Nick Saban line.
“That’s one of the things about McElwain. He knows the process, he knows what it takes to be successful and he has amazingly deep ties from the southeast. This could help Harbaugh even the playing field, having that reach into the southeast.”
Michigan’s brand will carry recruiting efforts so far. Manpower will further them.
“Michigan’s a school that recruits itself,” Wiltfong said. “If the coaches are working hard to build relationships with kids, the brand helps them be a contender. They’re not going to get everyone they want, but they should be in it for almost everyone they want, if they build those relationships.
“If McElwain makes that effort to connect with young men, he’ll be in good shape.”