Jim McElwain was a bit of an “out of left field” hire for Michigan when he was brought in last spring, but it was a clear opportunity to boost his coaching stock after things did not work out at Florida. If a recent report is to be believed, his chance to be a head coach again could be on its way.
According to a report from Football Scoop, Michigan’s wide receivers coach has emerged as a “strong candidate” for the coaching vacancy just up the road at Central Michigan University, who fired John Bonamego after a 1-11 season in Mt. Pleasant.
All along sources have told FootballScoop that new CMU AD Michael Alford has been looking to make a big name hire; with Mike Stoops and others reportedly in the mix as well. Head here for a look at other candidates Alford has considered for the job; but we’re hearing Alford is pushing for a hire sooner rather than later and McElwain we are told is a strong candidate.
At Colorado State McElwain was able to take a team that won four games his first season into one that won 18 games the next two years before he accepted the head job at Florida. In his first two seasons at Florida, his Gators won 19 games…before the bottom fell out (or a shark got involved) in 2017, sinking the Gators to a 3-4 mark before he was let go.
So, a few things here. Full disclosure, I am a CMU alum and the fact that they seem to be taking their coaching search seriously and looking for a big name instead of a cheerleader is a positive. It’s a stepping stone job. Not all that long ago Brian Kelly and Butch Jones kickstarted their careers in Mt. Pleasant, so whoever they hire won’t be there long if they’re successful. McElwain comes from the Nick Saban coaching tree and his 44-28 in his career as a head coach at Colorado State and Florida and won the SEC East in his first two seasons in Gainesville.
On the flip side, McElwain was arguably Michigan’s best assistant not named Don Brown this year (Ed Warrinner has a huge claim to that crown, as well). The strides that Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and company made under his tutelage was massive. He always felt overqualified for that job, but he was terrific in getting those guys to develop. Should he move on, this would be a big loss for Michigan.
There have also been rumblings that McElwain could be a candidate for the offensive coordinator job at Tennessee, so there are a few potential jobs on the table.
The downside of having great assistants is that when you are successful, people want to pluck you away. No matter how much money a head coach is making, he is only going to be as good as the staff around him is. Michigan fans want Jim Harbaugh to make changes to the offense, but he may be forced to replace one of his most valuable guys.