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Jim McElwain Discusses Responsibility He Learned From Nick Saban

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Jim McElwain has taken what he’s learned from Nick Saban and is now using that to help lead coaching and football into the future.


Jim McElwain was hired by the University of Florida to rebuild the unsteady foundation of the Gators football program. With the position come responsibilities beyond his obligations to Florida, one of which is helping lead the coaching profession, and game of football, into the future.

As a head coach, McElwain has a significant impact on the career paths of others within the industry. He is a product of Nick Saban’s coaching tree, and one day will likely have a fully-blossomed coaching tree himself.

McElwain has barely been in Gainesville for a year, yet his coaching staff has undergone considerable change already. He’s lost several assistants who have taken opportunities to further their careers, something the head coach couldn’t be more thrilled about.

“It’s pretty cool,” McElwain said. “Part of why you do that is to help guys grow in the profession. To see them have an opportunity to go and get jobs from those spots, that’s why we do this. That’s actually something I learned kind of through Coach Saban. It’s our responsibility as coaches to help guys get into the profession and be able to move on and keep expanding your network.”

McElwain’s devotion to developing up-and-coming coaches also provides Florida football with a constant stream of fresh minds. The status quo is always being challenged, and the program is consistently injected with new ideas.

“It’s a chance to get better,” McElwain said in regards to replacing coaches. “Not that the guys that were here aren’t good, but it’s a chance to continually evolve. It’s a chance to learn. It’s a chance to get a new set of eyes. It’s great for the coaching profession.”

Such evolution is key for a program. For proof, look no further than what Saban has constructed at Alabama. He’s leaned on a constantly shifting coaching staff to stay at the forefront of the game. Departures are chances for reinvention, opportunities to bring in a fresh take and build upon what’s already been established. 

What offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has been able to accomplish since landing in Tuscaloosa two seasons ago is the perfect example. His approach to games is completely different than Doug Nussmeier before him (and before that, McElwain). The same should hold true for Jeremy Pruitt, the former defensive coordinator at Georgia and Florida State who has replaced Kirby Smart at the same position.
The most successful college head coaches have been successful managers – both of rosters and staffs. Attrition is the only constant in college football, and the only way to weather it is to bend it one’s favor. To be, above all else, a steward to the game.

MORE: Does Florida Have A Shot With Nation’s No. 1 QB?

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