ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim McElwain pleaded the Fifth on Monday when it came to answering the question of how he liked the Michigan weather compared to Florida. Everything else in McElwain’s transition from head coach at one of the country’s tradition-rich programs to Jim Harbaugh’s wide receivers coach is going well.
“[Harbaugh] maybe got the wrong number and I answered,” joked McElwain in his first meeting with Michigan media. “I don’t know how it came about but we got a phone call and was very excited to come and, if nothing else, get an opportunity to stand in the background and see how something is operated. That’s what’s been really good. He extended the offer and I was really excited about that. My wife and I are really excited about being in Ann Arbor.”
McElwain was hired as wide receivers coach on Feb. 20. He is as part of a shift in the offensive staff that includes new offensive line coach Ed Warinner, new tight ends coach Sherrone Moore and a streamlining of duties for passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton.
McElwain was fired by Florida before Halloween last year, halfway through his third season with the Gators and despite a 22-12 overall record and two SEC East Division titles. He was the head coach at Colorado State for three seasons (2012-14) prior to Florida and worked as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Alabama from 2008-11.
His Florida teams lost twice to Harbaugh and the Wolverines — 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2016, and 33-17 in last season’s opener. That was the extent of their relationship until Harbaugh offered McElwain the job.
“This has been just a great opportunity,” McElwain said. “Coach Harbaugh has been a guy that I’ve followed for a long time, and the opportunity to come learn from him and see how someone else kind of puts it together has been a lot of fun.”
Whereas last season the offensive play calling was split among Harbaugh, Hamilton and former offensive coordinator/line coach Tim Drevno, McElwain said that Hamilton is running the offense this season.
“I came in to learn and learn what Pep’s teaching and help in any way I can,” McElwain said Monday night. “More than anything I’m just trying to understand what and how, and maybe over the years of doing this there’s maybe a thing or two [I know which] can help our guys play fast. I’m not re-inventing it. It’s an offense that’s here and I’m just trying to learn it.”