Michigan wide receivers coach Jim McElwain talks spring football Monday, April 16.
Jim Harbaugh hasn’t formally appointed an offensive coordinator at Michigan this season.
Earlier this spring, Harbaugh explained he’ll likely continue to use the type of collaborative play-calling system he’s always used for the 2018 season. He had sizable offensive staff turnover this offseason, though he still hasn’t identified a chief play caller.
On Monday, though, new wide receivers coach Jim McElwain shed a little light into how things are going right now. At this point, for all intents and purposes, Michigan’s offense is Pep Hamilton’s show.
“I came in to learn and learn what Pep’s teaching and to help him in any way I can,” McElwain told reporters in Ann Arbor. “He’s kind of running it. I’m just here to help him.”
McElwain was one of three new staff additions for Harbaugh this offseason, as the Wolverines lost Greg Frey to Florida State and paid offensive coordinator Tim Drevno to resign in February.
After being fired midway through his third season as Florida’s head coach, McElwain signed on to be Michigan’s wide receivers coach in February. The deal came about after Dan Enos left his job as Michigan’s receivers coach less than two months after he agreed to take the position.
There’s language in McElwain’s contract that says his base salary ($300,000) will be reassessed if the word “coordinator” is added to his title. It hasn’t been added yet. And McElwain says his chief job at Michigan right now is to coach the wide receivers and help Hamilton — Michigan’s assistant head coach/passing game coordinator — run the offense.
“More than anything, I’m just trying to understand the ‘what’ and ‘how’ and then maybe over the years of doing this (I have a few things) I’ll be able to help with,” McElwain said. “I’m not reinventing it. It’s an offense that’s here, I’m just trying to learn it.”
Hamilton is working with McElwain, new offensive line coach Ed Warinner, new tight ends coach Sherrone Moore and running backs coach Jay Harbaugh.
A year ago, Hamilton came up with pass plays while Drevno came up with run plays. Jim Harbaugh ultimately had the final say on the field. What’ll happen moving forward? That’s Harbaugh’s choice.
But for now, McElwain’s happy to be aboard.
“(Harbaugh) probably got the wrong number and I answered,” McElwain joked after being asked about the circumstances surrounding his hire at Michigan. “I don’t really know how it came about but I got a phone call and I was obviously very excited to come and, if nothing else, get an opportunity to stand in the background and see how something’s operated.
“He extended the offer and I was really excited about that. My wife and I are really excited about being in Ann Arbor.”
McElwain signed a one-year contract after being a head coach at Colorado State and Florida over the past seven years.
He said he was interested to see things from a different perspective this season. McElwain’s offenses at Colorado State improved year-over-year, ultimately leading to his hiring at Florida in 2015.
The Gator offense never took off, though, finishing No. 112, 116 and 110 nationally from 2015-17, respectively.
Michigan’s offense needs a shot of life, too, as the Wolverines slumped to No. 105 nationally last year. McElwain says it’s his job to develop Michigan’s group of young talent at wide receiver enough to make the quarterbacks “look good” offensively.
And beyond that, he’s taking coaching notes on how Harbaugh goes about things every day.
“I studied him from afar, but had never been on the inside of it. There’s a lot of things I’ll take with me if ever given the opportunity (to run a program) again,” McElwain said. “His approach with the team itself, how he interacts with that, how he handles some of the outside things that go on. He does a great job with that and his preparation is really good.”
McElwain’s coached against Harbaugh twice. He lost the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2016 and dropped last year’s season-opener in Texas.
Prior to the start of the 2016 campaign, ESPN polled a number of coaches via video, asking them to give a short answer on the first thing they thought of when Harbaugh’s name was brought up.
McElwain didn’t offer much, just a shrug.
“I didn’t even know the guy (back then),” McElwain said with a laugh Monday. “(He’s) a great ball coach.”
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @nickbaumgardner.
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