In two seasons as the head coach of the Florida Gators Jim McElwain has had to hire 14 coaches. Five of those hires came after a coach was either let go or they left for a job elsewhere. It’s something he’ll have to get used to at Florida, a place where assistant coaches can quickly climb the coaching ladder, catapulting themselves into raises or even head coaching positions — like Geoff Collins.
When Collins accepted the head-coaching job at Temple McElwain didn’t panic. He promoted Randy Shannon to defensive coordinator for the bowl game and began looking for replacements. A month later Mike Summers left Florida to take the offensive line job at Louisville, leaving McElwain with two vacancies on his staff. Suddenly, McElwain was fielding calls.
“It’s overwhelming and yet a little bit humbling as far as the interest that those spots garnered throughout the country from all levels of ball,” McElwain said of the interest he received in the openings on his staff.
Still, McElwain didn’t rush the decision.
“I think the important thing is making sure you’ve got the right fit for the organization and the guys in that organization,” he said.
McElwain took heat from fans and media for not making staff hires before national signing day. The Gators’ class was ranked outside the top-25 and Florida was playing catch-up with a depleted staff. Mac’s staff was able to close strong, finishing with a top-10 class and he hired JaJuan Seider, a coach who the past two head coaches have coveted and recruited.
McElwain had tried to get Seider on his initial staff in 2015 but Seider’s son — Jaden — had been diagnosed with cancer and the family was comfortable with the doctors they had in West Virginia. McElwain understood, but he made sure to let Seider know that it wouldn’t be the last time Mac would be calling his phone.
“Family first. That’s how we run this program,” said McElwain. “I totally understood that that first time around more than most people do, having gone through something with my own son. So I know as I told him when we got that next opportunity, ‘I’m not going to stop calling you.’ And I’m glad he chose to come.”
Shortly after Seider was hired defensive backs Torrian Gray left the program to assume the same role with the Washington Redskins. McElwain had already been working behind the scenes to replace Gray, who had informed his head coach of the interview and potential departure ahead of time. The same day that Gray was announced on Washington’s staff McElwain hired Brad Davis and Corey Bell to complete his own coaching staff.
The process wasn’t as quick as some would have liked but McElwain believed it was important to do it the right way.
“I want to say how excited I am that they chose to join this family and be part of something great,” McElwain said. “In each of their cases as we went through the process and looking for the right fit, I think the important thing is making sure you’ve got the right fit for the organization and the guys in that organization. That’s something we hit a home run on.”