GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Jim McElwain took playful shots at his alma mater, the Oakland Raiders and himself.
He was friendly, funny, witty and self-deprecating during his introductory news conference Saturday.
More importantly to the Gators, he was ultra-confident that he can and will get what used to be one of the most feared offenses in the Southeastern Conference back to being a juggernaut.
“I believe I can win with my dog Claire-a-bell,” McElwain said. “There are good players here. It’s our responsibility to get that going.”
Florida hired the former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach nicknamed “Mac” on Thursday to get the Gators back to prominence — maybe even relevance — in the SEC East. His top priority is revamping an offense that has grown stagnant since former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left school in 2009.
McElwain declined to specify whether he plans to install a spread scheme, which he had success with at Colorado State and Fresno State, or a pro-style scheme, which he used to help get Alabama to the top of the league.
He also said no decisions have been made about whether to keep some of Florida’s current staff. Speculation has centered on retaining defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and recruiting ace Travaris Robinson.
So McElwain provided no real news Saturday, but drew plenty of laughs from a crowded room that included reporters, fans, boosters, his boss, university employees and his wife and three children.
“People like being around him,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “You can see he’s very comfortable, has a good sense of humor.”
That was evident Saturday. Here are some of the highlights:
— When asked to identify some of his offensive influences, McElwain responded, “Who are you? Well, here’s who I am: I’m that dog that’s dropped off down at the humane society and he has about a little bit of every breed in it, and whatever the situation is, you try to bring that breed out that helps success. …
“There’s not been one (offense) that I’ve invented. All right? A lot of the guys in this business think they’ve invented it. Right? It’s been done.”
— When asked whether he wants to reinvent the “Fun ‘n’ Gun,” the nickname given to former coach Steve Spurrier’s high-scoring offense in the 1990s, he said, “Um, I don’t know what you call it, but it will be a blast.” A few seconds later, he added, “How about the Humane Society?”
— When asked about his first recruiting trip to Florida, he stumbled to come up with the year and then eventually took a dig at his alma mater, Eastern Washington. “I’m not real good on math,” he said. “Eastern Washington education. Sorry.”
— He took an even bigger jab at the Raiders, where he spent the 2006 season as quarterbacks coach. Coach Art Shell and his staff were fired after a 2-14 season.
“Some people would have said I didn’t coach in the National Football League,” he quipped. “I coached with the Raiders. But I’ve got to tell you what a great experience that was.”
The Gators are counting on McElwain to provide a better experience than the Will Muschamp era and get back in the hunt in the East.
Florida went 28-21 under Muschamp, including 10-13 the past two seasons. The offense was the main problem, ranking no higher than 90th in total yards during Muschamp’s four seasons.
Muschamp failed repeatedly to improve things on that side of the ball despite three offensive coordinators, three offensive line coaches, four receivers coaches and a number of quarterbacks. Foley fired him Nov. 16 and identified McElwain as the top target a week later because of his head-coaching experience, ties to the SEC and the Sunshine State and his history of offensive success.
McElwain wanted the job so badly that he agreed to pay $2 million of a $5 million buyout. The Gators will pay the rest and also will guarantee Colorado State another $2 million for playing a game in Gainesville between 2017 and 2020.
“There’s only a couple of these in the United States of America, and one of those is the Florida Gators, and to be able to have that opportunity is something I’m not sure I could have lived with,” said McElwain, who signed a six-year deal that will average $3.5 million annually. “Given that opportunity and letting it pass by, I’m not one to ever let things pass by.
“I kind of roll up my sleeves and go get it done.”
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