John L. Smith on McElwain to Florida: 'People are going to love him'
A number of analysts have sounded off new Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain and how they believe he’ll fare at one of college football’s top programs.
However, there are few people who perhaps understand McElwain and his coaching style better than former Arkansas head coach John L. Smith.
Smith, 66, coached with McElwain from 2000-05 at both Louisville and Michigan State. McElwain served as Smith’s wide receivers coach at Michigan State and then as his assistant head coach at Louisville.
Now that McElwain is on to being the head coach at Florida, Smith thinks the Gators made a tremendous decision in hiring the former Colorado State head coach.
“I think it’s a great hire,” Smith said. “As I look back, when I lost him at Michigan State, that killed us. When I had him, he was my assistant head coach. He was my guy in the offensive room that I knew would handle things.”
“I’m biased, but I think people at Florida are going to love him,” he added.
McElwain comes into the Florida coaching job as a coach with proven success and experience on the offensive side of the ball, something Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley set out to find for his next hire. From his time with McElwain, Smith knows he can be a dynamite recruiter as well, especially in a talent-rich recruiting base like Florida.
“He’s a believer in get out and work your backyard. Recruit your backyard first,” Smith said. “I think he’ll do that without a doubt because you have the best kids in the country [in Florida].
“He’s going to sell the fans,” he added. “Nothing sells the fans more than winning. But he’s going to present a personality that they can all identify with, a likable personality. If he goes out, he’s going to get a lot of people on his side.”
But even more than his coaching style and achievements, the overwhelming response in regard to McElwain’s hiring is the personality he’ll bring to the program. Many have described him as a very “mild mannered,” which would be quite the opposite from the fiery personality of Florida’s former head coach Will Muschamp.
According to Smith, McElwain pulls no punches and he thinks Florida fans and those around him in the program will respond well to his type of leadership.
“People are going to be very excited. For the media, he’s going to be very easy to work with,” Smith said. “What you see is what you get. He’s going to do a great job of coaching and he’s going to coach the heck out of those kids.”
“He’s going to put a winner on the field.”