Jim McElwain enters his second season as head coach of the Rams in 2013, looking to build upon the positive momentum established in his debut season. McElwain's team won three of its last five games--including three in a row at home--and posted the program's best record since 2008 (4-8).
In addition to the measurable on-field improvement, McElwain's complete overhaul of the program in this "Bold New Era" has re-shaped the the players' mind-set and re-energized the fan base.
McElwain, a 28-year coaching veteran, became the 20th head football coach in Colorado State program history on Dec. 13, 2011. He spent the 2008-11 seasons as offensive coordinator at Alabama, where he played a key role in leading the Crimson Tide to two BCS national championship wins (2009 and '11).
In his first game as head coach, McElwain immediately put his stamp on the CSU program, guiding the Rams to a come-from-behind 22-19 defeat of in-state rival Colorado, on Sept. 1, 2012. In so doing, McElwain became the first CSU head football coach since 1970 to win his first game, and the first to defeat Colorado in his first CSU-CU matchup.
Whether as a head coach or a coordinator, McElwain has not lost a season opener at the college level since 2004 when he was at Michigan State, a span that has produced seven consecutive wins.
The Rams under McElwain in 2012 showed consistent progress over the second half of the season, most notably on offense where the team averaged 163.3 rushing yards per game over the last four contests, after netting 96.2 yards on the ground in the first six. Colorado State, despite seeing three different quarterbacks make at least three starts each because of injury for the first time since 1981, tied for 17th in the nation (2nd Mountain West) in red-zone scoring at 87.5% (21-24). In their eight conference games the Rams' efficiency was 15-of-17 (88.2%).
A school-record 18 different Colorado State players scored touchdowns in McElwain's debut season, tied for second-most in the nation, while seeing 19 players make their first career start, eighth-most among NCAA FBS programs.
Defensively, the 2012 Rams ranked fourth in the Mountain in passing yards allowed (203.2; 27th FBS). Six Rams earned All-Mountain West honors under McElwain's tutelage, including one first-team selection (P Pete Kontodiakos) and two second-teamers (DE Lanston Tanyi and K Jared Roberts).
McElwain, 50, came to Fort Collins from Alabama, where he had served as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2008-11. His hire was officially announced on Dec. 13, 2011 in a press conference on the Colorado State campus. McElwain returned to campus early the morning of Jan. 10, 2012, just hours after his Crimson Tide defeated previous No. 1 LSU in New Orleans to claim their second national championship in three seasons. He hit the ground running as the Rams' new leader and has rapidly re-shaped the entire program in large part defining what Colorado State's "Bold New Era" is all about.
In four seasons at Alabama, McElwain's played a key role in the Tide compiling an overall record of 48-6. His offense led the nation by committing only 57 turnovers in that period and sent two players to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York: 2009 winner Mark Ingram and 2011 finalist Trent Richardson. In 2011 Alabama led the SEC in rushing at 219.8 yards per game, rankedsecond in total offense at 433.4 total yards per contest and third in scoring at 36 points per game. In 2010, the team was third in both total yards and scoring.
The veteran coach tutored first-year quarterbacks in two of his four seasons at Alabama, Greg McElroy in 2009 and A.J. McCarron in 2011. Saban brought McElwain to Tuscaloosa from Fresno State to replace Major Applewhite at the reins of the Tide offense.
The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Pat Hill at Fresno State in 2007, McElwain improved the Bulldogs' output from 338.2 total yards per game the year before his arrival to 419.5 (No. 38 in the nation), and from 23.0 points per contest to 32.9 (No. 32). Fresno State went 9-4 in his only season, including a 40-28 triumph over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl.
In 2006, he coached the quarterbacks of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, under Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell, after a three-year stint (2003-05) as assistant head coach, receivers coach and special-teams coach at Michigan State on the staff of John L. Smith.
His Spartans receivers led the team to the 2003 Alamo Bowl, establishing school records with 312 receptions and 3,510 receiving yards. The following season on special teams, he coached an All-American, punter Brandon Fields, and the Big Ten's scoring leader, kicker Dave Rayner. And prior to his departure for the NFL, Michigan State set a school mark with 24 touchdown receptions in 2005, when five of his wideouts had at least 28 catches.
McElwain coached against Colorado State in the 2000 Liberty Bowl, culminating his first season with Louisville. He spent three years (2000-02) with the Cardinals, in charge of wide receivers and special teams, helping the program to three consecutive bowls. Four of his players earned first-team all-conference honors. Three of his pupils ranked among Louisville's all-time leading receivers, including future Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch.
The offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and receivers coach at Montana State, McElwain coached in his home state with the Bobcats from 1995-99. In Bozeman, he helped QB Rob Compson compile almost 7,000 career passing yards as well as 54 touchdowns, a program record, and also tutored Chip Hobbs, the Bobcats' all-time leading career receiver (144 receptions, 2,060 yards, 18 touchdowns). No other Big Sky offense in 1998 was more prolific than Montana State, which scored 31.6 points per contest.
He broke into the coaching profession at his alma mater, Eastern Washington, where from 1985-94 he held a host of positions on the staff of head coach Dick Zornes. He launched his career as a graduate assistant and finished his tenure with the Eagles as quarterbacks and receivers coach. During his time there, Eastern Washington earned a berth in both the 1992 and 1995 Division I-AA playoffs, and a share of the 1992 Big Sky crown. In addition, in 1993 he coached a third-team All-American, Tony Brooks, who concluded his career as the school's all-time leading receiver, with 2,969 career yards.
McElwain played quarterback at Eastern Washington from 1980-83, and earned his bachelor's degree in education from EWU.
An all-state field general at Sentinel High School in Missoula, Mont., McElwain grew up 119 miles up Interstate 90 from Butte, which produced former CSU head coach Sonny Lubick. He joins Lubick, Jim Sweeney and Bobby Petrino among the most prominent coaches produced by the state.
Jim and his wife, Karen, have three children, JoHanna, Elizabeth and Jerret.
PROMINENT PLAYERS COACHED:
Louisville wide receiver and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch
Alabama running back and Heisman Tropy winner Mark Ingram, now with the New Orleans Saints
New York Jets 2011 draft selection quarterback Greg McElroy
Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, a first-team All-American and 2011 first-round draft selection of the Atlanta Falcons
Alabama Doak Walker Award winner and Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson
Jim McElwain's Year-by-Year Coaching Positions:
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Special Teams
Wide Receivers/Special Teams
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers/Special Teams