McElwain returns to Alabama with Colorado State
Jim McElwain has labored in college football’s ”Mecca” under
Alabama coach Nick Saban and run the offense for two national
Now Colorado State’s head coach, McElwain returns to
Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night as a heavy underdog trying to
find a way to beat his old boss and stop former quarterback pupil
”It’s really strange with the coaches that are there, the
people in the organization as well,” McElwain said. ”I find
myself looking at the wrong side of the film sometimes. I’m excited
for our opportunity and the organization’s opportunity to go see
the `Mecca,’ to see what it’s all about.”
And when he says ”all ”, McElwain includes everything from the
cleanliness of facilities to the stadium and parking attendants.
Everything that makes Mecca Mecca.
McElwain was the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator from
2008-11, so he has an interesting perspective on the program that
added another title last season and the coach who runs the
McElwain, who is looser and more outgoing than Saban, praises
his former boss’s methods, or his oft-cited ”process.” He also
offers insights to why Saban is successful enough to have his
program pushing to become the first team to win three straight
national titles in the modern era.
”He doesn’t sit, he’s always moving for what they can do
better,” McElwain said. ”No matter what it is, there is always a
review of anything they do over how they can get better or what
they can do. The process in which everything is detailed. Those
guys know exactly what they’re doing in practice today. They know
that they have to compete or they won’t be playing.
”They know on Tuesday what exactly is going to be installed and
how it works. Wednesday and Thursday, it’s a detailed machine. They
go in before Thursday’s practice and get the first eight (plays)
introduced. Those guys can recite the first eight and not even have
to call them into the huddle. They take such pride in their
preparation to go dominate an opponent and to not just win. They go
to dominate their opponent and to dominate every play. It’s
fascinating. The guy is something special.”
As an example, he cites Saban’s success in recruiting and
evaluating talent. But McElwain also counters one perception some
might have about Saban, whom he says is ”by no means a control
”There are a lot of outside people just trying to pick and find
out whatever,” McElwain said. ”No, the guy’s detailed. He’s a
hard worker and he wants you to be complete in what you do, in
every aspect. Well last time I checked, that’s the blueprint for
any organization and Fortune 500 company there is.
”Be detailed in everything you do, work hard, and be complete
in what you do. Don’t leave little things hanging out.”
McElwain left a program that was 48-6 during his four-year
tenure. He led Colorado State to a 4-8 record last season, the
program’s best since 2008, and an upset of Colorado.
”I think he’s done as good of a job with the players he has as
anyone possibly could,” Saban said. ”I think they’ve got good
players. They’ve been very productive in the way they’ve played on
offense and they have really good balance.
”I have as much respect for Jim McElwain as a coach as anybody
that’s ever worked for me.
McElwain’s last game at Alabama was the Tide’s 21-0 victory over
LSU in the January 2011 BCS championship game, when McCarron was
Now, McCarron is 32-3 as a starter with two national titles (he
was redshirted during the 2009 season). His former position coach
is certainly impressed with how well he’s doing these days.
”I think AJ’s playing as well as anybody in the country,”
McElwain said. ”I’m proud of that. He plays the game the way it
should be played and he knows when to take his shots or when to
take his check downs. He has a true command now.”