He’s not naïve to the pressure. He sees it ever day on his way to work, driving by the three statues of Florida Heisman Trophy winners -- Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel. There are constant reminders of the expectation levels, especially when it comes to the offensive side of the football. Coaches at Florida aren't encouraged to produce offenses of that caliber. In Gainesville, it's expected.
The pressure is real, but it is also understood.
“It's kind of great to have the expectations,” Jim McElwain said from the podium at SEC Media Days on Monday. “That's something that we look forward to and we embrace.
“From a recruiting footprint, we're in an area that I think we can probably attract some explosive playmakers along the way, and yet it all starts up front on both sides of the ball. So us rebuilding that offensive line to allow us an opportunity to be successful is something that we really need to do.”
It’s similar to what Will Muschamp said when he got to Florida. The difference is McElwain’s background. He has turned around anemic offenses in previous stops in his background, and when given a high-powered group at Alabama, McElwain made sure it didn’t lose a step.
That’s not what he’s taking over at Florida. He has an offense without many experienced parts. There’s a quarterback battle, a search for multiple consistent playmakers and an offensive line with only one returning player that has ever started a game for the Gators.
With all those hurdles, there’s no time for excuses.
The last five coaches that were fired from Southeastern Conference programs got the pink slip after four seasons or less. McElwain knows he doesn’t have extended time to fix the Florida problems on offense. Making the turnaround even tougher is that he’ll be forced to depend on multiple freshmen this year.
“They all signed up to come and play, and some think they're ready maybe before they are,” McElwain said. “In our case, they're going to have an opportunity, and we're going to rely on them. They're going to have to take a lot of valuable reps, especially on the offensive side of the ball. For those guys, that learning curve has got to happen in a hurry. There's a lot that goes into it, and yet we can't dump it all on them at once. Our understanding is we've got to have a little patience with a couple of those position groups as we move forward without hindering the play of the people around them. That's really kind of the delicate part. I'll be really interested to see how they blend once we get down there August 6th.”
McElwain has heard plenty of it during his trip around the state speaking to booster clubs in the spring and summer. The sense of desperation from Florida fans isn’t even to be the best offense in the country right away. They just want one with a pulse. After five years of mind-numbing offensive football, McElwain knows his group needs to find ways to provide answers in a hurry.
With a limited offensive line in year one, it’s hard to expect much. But that gives McElwain and the rest of the offensive staff a chance to be creative and take chances in other areas of the game.
“We need to create explosive plays and change field position,” McElwain said. “Some of that might be to take chances in special teams to get a couple more possessions. Those are things as you’re looking forward that we can do until we get these guys coming along.”