McElwain Likes Alabama-Except for Humidity

SportsFootballCalifornia State University, FresnoOakland RaidersUniversity of AlabamaCleveland Browns

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Jim McElwain has found plenty to like
about being Alabama's offensive coordinator, including a program
with a reputation stretching even to his home state of Montana and
Southern hospitality, which he says lives up to its own rep.
   What's not to like?
   "Obviously this thing they call humidity is something that's
awful new," McElwain said.
   As Alabama's offensive coordinator, it's not the humidity that
gets you but the heat.
   Coach Nick Saban hired McElwain in late January when last year's
offensive coordinator, Major Applewhite, went back to work as a
position coach at his alma mater, Texas. The offense has been stuck
in the middle of the Southeastern Conference pack in recent seasons
and was held to 14 points or fewer four times last season, all
losses.
   Even McElwain was surprised when Saban looked a couple of
thousand miles away for a replacement for Applewhite after one
season at Fresno State.
   "When coach first called, I hung up on him because I thought it
was one of my buddies messing with me," said McElwain, who spent
the previous season as the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks coach
after a stint with Michigan State. "Did it come as a total
surprise? Absolutely."
   Saban, however, once worked with Fresno State head coach Pat
Hill with the Cleveland Browns and Hill gave his coordinator a
recommendation.
   McElwain is also drawing nice reviews from his new boss and
players after going through spring practices and part of fall camp.
   "Jim has done a fantastic job since he's been here," Saban
said. "He's got an excellent personality. The players like him. I
think we have more diversity on what we do offensively without
changing the whole ball of wax to make it difficult for the
players.
   "His positive energy and enthusiasm has been a real asset to
the organization as well as his knowledge and experience is going
to be helpful not only to utilize our personnel but how we plan and
prepare for games."
   McElwain only has one year to work with senior quarterback John
Parker Wilson. Under his tutelage, though, Fresno State's Tom
Brandstater jumped from 89th to 23rd nationally in pass efficiency.
   Wilson is hoping for a similar one-year turnaround under
McElwain.
   "I like him a lot," he said. "I think it's going really well.
I kind of got used to him during spring putting in the base stuff.
Now, we've got a chance to go back and learn the details and learn
more. I'm enjoying it.
   "It's got a lot of different aspects to make it quarterback
friendly."
   The phrases "quarterback friendly" and "mentally friendly"
were used by several players to describe McElwain's system.
   "Our new offensive coordinator is doing a great job of making
things a lot more mentally friendly for everybody, simplifying
terminology, simplifying a lot of things we were doing," center
Antoine Caldwell said. "And for John Parker, not making reads so
complicated and things like that. Take a two- or three-step drop
and get rid of the football."
   McElwain said one thing he won't do is focus on yardage and
points instead of wins and losses. Then again, Fresno State did
average 33 points and 420 yards a game last season.
   The Bulldogs also finished 9-4 and won the Humanitarian Bowl
with a 571-yard performance against Georgia Tech.
   "I'm not caught up in all the stats," McElwain said. "I'm not
a stats guy, never will be a stats guy. Stats will fall where they
do. The key is figuring out a way offensively to combine your
defense, your special teams and your offense into one unit to win
the ball game. That's what the bottom line is."
   McElwain got a pleasant jolt when he wandered into a store in
Montana during the summer's brief visit home. One of his three
children was wearing Alabama crimson.
   "One of the checkers stopped production and said, 'Wow, this is
unbelievable, we have somebody from the University of Alabama in
our store,"' McElwain recalled. "It was a fantastic thing."
  

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