McElwain Has Head Coach Qualities

The name Jim McElwain first surfaced among Alabama faithful in a most unusual way. Ordinarily, when an assistant coach moves from one assistant job to another assistant position, it's not big news. It's certainly nothing for the team the coach is leaving to make much of. It was quite a surprise when legendary Fresno State Coach Pat Hill called a press conference to announce he was losing McElwain.

Jim McElwain came to Alabama prior to the 2008 season after just one year at Fresno State, but the job he had done was so impressive that Fresno State Coach Pat Hill announced that McElwain would be joining Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide football staff as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

Although in Saban's system assistant coaches have little to no interaction with media, in the rare opportunities reporters had with McElwain it was obvious that he was personable and articulate. The work he did with Bama quarterbacks and the offense proved that he is a capable football mind. In short, he was an obvious head coach-to-be.

That destiny came Tuesday when McElwain was introduced as the new coach at Colorado State in Fort Collins.

McElwain, who met with CSU players prior to Tuesday's announcement, was to spend this week recruiting for Colorado State. He will return to Tuscaloosa and work through practices and the BCS National Championship Game against LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 9 before starting fulltime duties for the Rams. Bama practices begin Monday, which coincides with the beginning of the NCAA recruiting "quiet period."

McElwain had been the front-runner for head coaching jobs at Memphis and Fresno State this year, but took his name out of consideration for both.

At Colorado State, he replaces Steve Fairchild, who was 3-9 in each of the past three seasons and 16-33 for his career.

Colorado State Athletics Director Jack Graham said, "His arrival starts a bod new era for CSU football. He is a man of great character and great integrity."

McElwain signed a five-year contract at $1.5 million per year with another $150,000 in bonuses that are not tied to football victories.

"As the vision goes, we put the calendar together and we need to hit the ground running and get the word out on what our plans and vision are," McElwain said. "This bold, new era, I'm really excited to lead."

He added that his goal is "to win them all."

McElwain was raised in the West, a native of Montana.

McElwain replaced Saban's first quarterbacks coach, Major Applewhite, when Applewhite went to Texas.

Alabama's offense improved dramatically in 2008, McElwain's first year with the Tide. In 2009 he worked with first-year quarterback Greg McElroy, who was named MVP of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Bama had a 14-0 season and defeated Texas in the BCS Championship Game at Pasadena for the national title.

This year he worked with another first-year quarterback, A.J. McCarron, and although Bama is best known for its defense, the Tide offense was among the nation's best and McCarron had an excellent first year.

This year Bama averaged 36 points per game, rushed for 219.8 yards per game, passed for 213.6 yards per game (total offense: 433.4 yards per game), and averaged 6.5 yards per play. McCarron completed 196 of 294 yards with 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions for 2,400 yards.

Before going to Fresno State in 2007, McElwain was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders. He was at Michigan State, 2003-05, as assistant head coach, receivers coach, and special teams coach. McElwain was also receivers coach and special teams coach at Louisville, 2000-02. He was offensive coordinator at Montana State, 1995-99. He began his career as a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington in 1985, and worked his way up to quarterbacks and receivers coach.

In Missoula, Mont., McElwain was an all-state quarterback at Sentinal High School. He played quarterback at Eastern Washington, 1980-83.

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