For the second time in three years, Jim McElwain helped coached Alabama to a BCS National Championship on Monday. Mere hours later he was on a plane bound for Fort Collins with CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham to start his new job.
“It was awful hard last night leaving those players and leaving the support staff and the coaches,â€ McElwain said from his new office with unopened moving boxes still sitting in a corner. â€œIt was very hard.”
There was no time for McElwain to celebrate the victory; a daunting task was awaiting him at CSU.
He arrived in Fort Collins at 3 a.m., reporting to his office around 7 a.m. to start work on turning around a program that has had three-straight 3-9 seasons under former coach Steve Fairchild.
McElwain met with his staff late Tuesday afternoon to map a course of action for what is sure to be a hectic three weeks before national signing day on Feb. 1.
And because of that looming deadline, recruiting is key right now as he tries to make up for lost time.
â€œThe main focus right now, plain and simple is recruiting. Without good players, youâ€™re going to get beat,â€ McElwain said. â€œRecruiting is relationships. Weâ€™re going to go try and create a relationship in two weeks when other guys have had a relationship with these guys for a year-and-a-half or two years. Thatâ€™s not easy.â€
During that time McElwain will assemble the rest of his coaching staff.
Thus far he has hired three coaches; Tim Duffie, Dave Baldwin and Tim Skipper.
When the hiringâ€™s were announced it was said that there designated coaching assignments will be named when the full staff is in place.
But on Tuesday McElwain was able to add more definition to Duffie and Baldwinâ€™s roles.
McElwain said he and Duffie hadnâ€™t decided what side of the ball Duffie would serve on, but did say that Duffie, who has strong ties in Texas, will be CSUâ€™s recruiting coordinator.
And on Baldwin, who had been serving as offensive coordinator at Utah State, McElwain said that he will take that same role at CSU. McElwain also said that Baldwin will call plays on offense.
â€œI donâ€™t have all the answers,â€ McElwain said. â€œSurround yourself with good people, give them direction, have a vision, have passion. Weâ€™ll put a plan in together. Iâ€™ll be heavily involved in it. Iâ€™ll be heavily involved in special teams and Iâ€™ll be heavily involved in the defense.â€
McElwain said that there will be nine assistant coaches in total.
That number will likely be broken into four defensive and five offensive coaches, McElwain said.
He said that he doesnâ€™t have a set defensive scheme he wants to run, and at least in the early stages of his coaching tenure, that will be determined by the personnel he currently has to work with.
Details on how is program will be run, from offseason conditioning programs to spring practice times, will all be decided after signing day.
McElwain said that his first team meeting will be on Jan. 20 once all the players are back in school. He will then meet with each player individually following signing day.
In-between now and then, McElwain knows that there will likely be attrition to the roster as there usually is when coaches are fired and new ones are hired.
He wouldnâ€™t comment on specific players amidst speculation that quarterback Pete Thomas was transferring. Thomas says he is still deciding on what he was going to do. But McElwain did stress that he wants everyone to be fully on board.
“The guys that are here are Rams,” McElwain said. “If you don’t want to be a part of it, fine, go somewhere else. Every program that has changes always goes through attrition; I’m just working off of history. I hope no one leaves. I really do.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.