Back in January of 2002, Jeremy Foley and a contingent of University of Florida officials spent a couple of days in Norman, Oklahoma visiting with Bob Stoops. Amid rampant speculation that Stoops was going to succeed Steve Spurrier as Florida’s football coach, Foley left Norman without a signed contract. Just a couple of days later, Ron Zook, a career assistant who had never been a head coach at any level, was introduced as the head Gator.
Now, almost 13 years later, Foley and a contingent of University of Florida officials are in Fort Collins, Colorado, where they spent several hours at the home of Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. All expectations are that McElwain will be the next head coach at Florida. In three short years he’s turned a program that suffered three consecutive 3-9 seasons into a 10-2 team with one of the best offenses in the country. He has NFL experience and called the plays for two national championships at Alabama (2009, 2011).
While it is possible that Foley will do another Norman, this time it’s unlikely. Foley has a chance to hire a coach with a track record of outstanding offensive production, SEC connections from his time at Alabama and a record for developing quarterbacks with two full months of recruiting ahead of him.
Here is a look at McElwain’s production as the Alabama offensive coordinator his last three years in Tuscaloosa and the last two years of offense at Colorado State.
Alabama averaged 32.1 points per game and scored 48 offensive touchdowns during its 14-0 national championship season in 2009. Alabama beat Texas, 37-21, in the championship game even though it managed only 263 yards against Will Muschamp’s defense.
PASSING: Alabama averaged 187.9 yards per game and a solid 7.6 yards per pass attempt. Greg McElroy was the starter, hitting 198-325 (60.9%), good for 2,508 yards and 17 touchdowns against only four interceptions. McElroy averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt.
RUSHING: Alabama averaged 215.07 yards per game and 5.01 yards per rushing attempt, good for 31 touchdowns. Mark Ingram led the way, running for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns to become the first Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama history. Backup Trent Richardson ran for 749 yards and eight touchdowns.
RECEIVING: Julio Jones was the leading receiver with 43 catches for 596 yards (13.86 per catch) and four touchdowns. There were 64 completions to running backs and 36 to the tight ends.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Alabama ran 601 times and threw the ball 346 times for 5,642 yards. The Crimson Tide averaged 403 yards per game and 5.96 yards per play. Alabama controlled the ball an average of 33:31.00 per game.
Alabama averaged 35.7 points per game and scored 54 offensive touchdowns in a 10-3 season in which the loses were to the #22, #8 and #1 teams in the country. Alabama beat #14 Michigan State, 49-7, in the Capital One Bowl.
PASSING: Alabama averaged 261.2 yards per game and a very impressive 9.4 yards per pass attempt. Greg McElroy followed up his junior season with an impressive senior year when he completed 70.9% of his passes (222-313) for 2,987 yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. McElroy averaged 9.5 yards per pass attempt.
RUSHING: Alabama averaged 182.92 yards per game and 5.09 yards per rushing attempt, good for 30 touchdowns. Ingram didn’t follow up his Heisman season with a brilliant 2010 but he was solid, gaining 875 yards (5.54 per carry) and scoring 13 touchdowns. Richardson and Eddie Lacey split the backup carries. Richardson ran for 700 yards and six touchdowns while Lacey racked up 406 yards and six touchdowns.
RECEIVING: Julio Jones caught 78 passes for 1,133 yards (14.53 yards) and 14 touchdowns. Two other wide receivers caught more than 30 passes while there were two running backs with more than 20 catches and tight ends combined to catch 42 yards.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Alabama threw the ball 362 times and ran it 467 times for 5,773 yards for an average of 444.1 yards per game and 6.96 yards per play. Alabama controlled the ball for 30:46.08 per game.
With first-year starter A.J. McCarron at quarterback, Alabama averaged 34.8 points per game and scored 50 offensive touchdowns. Alabama’s only loss was to then #2 LSU. LSU was #1 in the nation when Alabama beat the Tigers for the national championship.
PASSING: With a brand new starter at quarterback, Alabama averaged 215.2 yards per game for 16 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, an average of 7.8 yards per pass attempt. A.J. McCarron completed 219-328 of his passes for 2,2,634 yards (8.0 yards per attempt), 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
RUSHING: Alabama produced two 1,000-yard rushers while averaging 227.5 yards per game and 5.59 yards per carry, good for 37 touchdowns. Eddie Lacey ran for 1,322 yards (6.48 per carry) and 17 touchdowns while T.J. Yeldon ran for 1,108 (6.33 per carry) and 12 touchdowns as the backup.
RECEIVING: Marquis Maze caught 56 passes for 627 yards and one touchdown to lead the receivers. Ten different players caught at least 11 passes with tight ends catching 54 balls and running backs catching 40.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Alabama threw the ball 357 times and ran it 508 for 5,585 yards per game and 6.46 yards per play, an average of 429.6 yards per game. Alabama controlled the ball for 32:47.85 per game.
In McElwain’s second year on the job, the Rams improved from 21.2 points per game to 36.2. They were 4-8 in his first year, 8-6 in his second when they scored 61 offensive touchdowns.
PASSING: The Rams averaged 266.4 yards per game, hitting 298-480 of their passes for 3,730 yards (7.8 yards per attempt) for 24 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Garrett Grayson went 297-478 for 3,696 yards (7.7 per attempt), 24 touchdowns and 11 picks.
RUSHING: The Rams averaged 205.14 yards per game and 5.04 per carry with 37 rushing touchdowns. Kapri Bibbs ran for 1,741 yards (6.2 per carry) for 31 touchdowns.
RECEIVING: Rashard Higgins caught 68 passes for 837 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman, while Joe Hansley caught 52 for 613 yards and one touchdown and tight end Crockett Gilmore had 47 catches for 577 yards and two touchdowns. Seven players had as many as 20 catches. Tight ends caught 75 passes while running backs caught 35.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Colorado State threw the ball 480 times and ran it 570 times (75 plays per game) for 471.6 yards per game and 6.29 yards per play. Colorado State held the ball for 30:49.64 per game.
The Rams are 10-2 this season, averaging 35.9 points per game. They have scored 57 offensive touchdowns.
PASSING: Colorado State has thrown for 3,915 yards (9.5 per attempt) and 33 touchdowns against only six interceptions, an average of 326.3 yards per game. Garrett Grayson has thrown for 3,779 yards (9.8 per attempt) on 250-386 completions for 32 yards and only six interceptions.
RUSHING: The Rams average 171.58 yards per game and 4.95 per carry with 24 rushing touchdowns. Alabama transfer Dee Hart has run for 1,254 yards (6.71 per carry) and 16 touchdowns. Treyous Jarrells has run for 437 and six more TDs.
RECEIVING: Sophomore Rashard Higgins has caught 89 passes for 1,640 yards (18.43 per catch) and 1 7 touchdowns. Five players have at least 20 catches. Tight ends have caught 34 passes while running backs have caught 30.
TOTAL OFFENSE: The Rams have thrown the ball 412 times while running it 416. They average 497.8 yards per game and 7.21 yards per play. Colorado State controls the ball 29:25.25 per game.
Of the top four teams in this week’s college football playoff poll, TCU has an almost certain berth in the final four, which will be announced next week after the conference championship games are played and the Big 12 regular season comes to an end. While #1 Alabama, #2 Oregon and #4 Florida State all have difficult conference championship games, TCU ends its regular season against a very bad Iowa State team. TCU made the biggest news by jumping Florida State for the #3 position. The Seminoles face Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and if they figure out a way to lose to Georgia Tech, it will be interesting to see how the committee plays it out if Ohio State wins the Big Ten championship and Baylor knocks off #9 K-State in its final regular season game.
The First Four
(1) Alabama, 11-1: A win over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game will clinch the overall #1 seed when the final rankings come out next week.
(2) Oregon, 11-1: The Ducks lost to Arizona at home. Now they get Arizona on a neutral field for the Pac-12 championship. This is a very dangerous spot to be in.
(3) TCU, 10-1: You can all but pencil in TCU in the final four. The Horned Frogs’ last regular season game is against hapless Iowa State.
(4) Florida State, 12-0: The Seminoles keep winning but they aren’t playing very well. This week they get Georgia Tech and it could be with a distracted Jameis Winston, who is facing his accuser in a student conduct hearing that could get him arrested if Willie Meggs gets evidence he didn’t have a year ago.
The Next Four(5) Ohio State, 11-1: Can the Buckeyes win the Big Ten championship with their third string quarterback?
(6) Baylor, 10-1: To get into the Final Four, someone has to lose and the Bears have to beat #9 Kansas State. That head to head win over TCU has been overlooked.
(7) Arizona, 10-2: Can lightning strike twice? Would Arizona make the final four if it knocked off Oregon?
(8) Michigan State, 10-2: Michigan State has zero chance to make the final four but could get into one of the New Year’s Day games.
Everybody Else:(9) Kansas State, 9-2; (10) Mississippi State, 10-2; (11) Georgia Tech, 10-2; (12) Ole Miss, 9-3; (13) Wisconsin, 10-2; (14) Georgia, 9-3; (15) UCLA, 9-3; (16) Missouri, 10-2; (17) Arizona State, 9-3; (18) Clemson, 9-3; (19) Auburn, 8-4; (20) Oklahoma, 8-3; (21) Louisville, 9-3; (22) Boise State, 10-2; (23) Utah, 8-4; (24) LSU, 8-4; (25) Southern Cal, 8-4.
There will be a second day of testimony in the Student Conduct Code hearing for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston testified in one room Tuesday while the woman who has accused him of sexual assault testified in another. While the woman’s attorney said it was a good day because his client had a chance to tell her side of the story, Winston attorney David Cornwell was up to his usual pit bull attack mode, calling the accuser a liar when he left the building and spoke to the media.
If Jim McElwain is indeed Jeremy Foley’s choice to succeed Will Muschamp as Florida’s football coach, are you satisfied or do you think Foley should have gone after a bigger name?
Since Jeremy Foley and other Florida officials are in Colorado to visit with Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain about filling the vacancy left by Will Muschamp, it seems only fitting that today’s music is John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.”