Tebow: McElwain has to handle pressure

Gator Great Tim Tebow gave his seal of approval for new Florida Gators head coach hire Jim McElwain as a guest on the Paul Finebaum show on the SEC Network. The two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy winning Gator shared his observations on McElwain both as an analyst and a former opponent. One big thing for McElwain will be to handle the pressure at Florida.

Tim Tebow knows a little bit about big games and handling p[ressure. He also knows that in the biggest games, Jim McElwain has done just that. As an offensive coordinator at Alabama, McElwain has two national titles himself.

“I got a chance to talk to (Florida athletic director) Jeremy Foley this morning and he’s very excited and really believes in (McElwain),” Tebow said. “That is very comforting as a Florida fan and a supporter. He’s someone that has a great track record and he’s been in big time games and situations. He’s been at a school where there has been a lot of pressure. At Florida you need to know how to handle big games and a lot of pressure. His time at Alabama will help him do that.”

But Florida is in need of a makeover, especially on offense, and Tebow sees McElwain’s time at Colorado State as a testament of being able to do just that. The Rams were 2-10 a year before McElwain arrived in Fort Collins. In year one he doubled the wins going 4-8. In year two he doubled that going 8-6, and this year he guided the Rams to 10 wins in the regular season.

“Going to Colorado State and finding a way to win there is important as well, because he’ll be helping rebuild this Florida program,” Tebow said. “I think there is a lot of talent (at Florida), especially defensively. I think there are some young and up and coming receivers as well. I think being able to get into the recruiting fast will be important and (he can) start to rebuild.”

This writer fell into the trap that McElwain was a two-back pro-personnel guy and wouldn’t try and utilize the talents that are surrounding Gainesville and in the state of Florida with all the quickness at receiver and running back. After doing some checking when it looked like McElwain might be the guy, it appears that he is more inclined to use the talent around him. At Colorado State, sophomore receiver Rashard Higgins already has 1,640 receiving yards and leads the country in receiving. Running back Dee Hart has 1,254 yards already this season.

“What I really like in the offense is that he’s versatile,” Tebow said of McElwain. “They aren’t just one dimensional and locked in. It isn’t just a pro-style offense. I really liked what he did in certain games ‘hey, we’re a pro-style offense, but we’re going to go empty. If we have an athletic quarterback we’re going to use him in this way, we will go play-action or roll our quarterback’.”

Tebow remembers firsthand what McElwain could do. The undefeated and top ranked Gators faced Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship. The Gator defense that year was loaded with future NFL stars and was tough for anyone. The Alabama running game was always something they leaned on, and Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy that year as well. In the game, McElwain used the passing game to get Ingram and the backs isolated on Florida’s bigger slower linebackers and the plan worked to a charm. Tebow remembers it vividly.

“The game plan in 2009 National Championship at Alabama, that was pretty good game plan that took advantage of what our defense gave up and they did a great job,” Tebow said. “Alabama went on to win the national championship that year.”

Tebow harps back to McElwain’s versatility of McElwain and that he is constantly learning as he moves along in his career.

“I think he continues to grow,” Tebow said. “If you look at what they do, it isn’t what they did at Alabama. It’s continuing to grow, and I think you always have to have that mindset to be a successful coach.”

So how fast can McElwain come in and change things?

“I think a lot of it has to do with how well they are able to do this year in recruiting and how they can turn it around and score some points and be able to lean on the offense every now and then, and also how well he can develop quarterbacks,” Tebow said. “I think being able to develop that position is something very important. All of those guys have talent, it is about being able to develop and mentally and the decision making, if they can do that, the turnaround can be faster than some people think.”

Finally, Tebow was asked about prospects wanting to come to Florida. It has been three years since McElwain was at Alabama and he has always been a Western guy except for that four year stint. Of the names thrown around as possibilities for the job, he isn’t the most widely known among the hot prospects. Tebow thinks McElwain can make believers out of the young people and make impression on recruits.

“He has made quarterbacks that were under-the-radar pretty successful in Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron… came out to see him and they did some great things in college and made a name for themselves,” Tebow said of the former Alabama quarterbacks. “He really helped those guys with their maturity and improving.

“Also, when you are an athlete, with him it doesn’t matter if you are a quarterback. A running back, a receiver, or tight end, you have the opportunity to be successful. It’s not one-dimensional. They will find ways to use you. I remember with Mark Ingram was very good out of the backfield, but they used him with screens and swing passes a lot and developed something and played to his strengths. I think that is something that will be very influential for these young kids looking to see where they go. I think he will be able to get a good mixture of athletes.”

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