TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced the hiring of Jim McElwain as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Wednesday. McElwain served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Fresno State last year after spending the 2006 season in the NFL as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders. McElwain made an immediate impact in his first season at Fresno State as he helped lead the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record, a significant turnaround from the previous year in which Fresno State posted a 4-8 mark.
“Jim is a phenomenal coach and we are thrilled to have him on board,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “He did an outstanding job last year at Fresno State. Their improvement on offense, especially in the play of their quarterback, was tremendous. They had an impressive showing offensively against a very good Georgia Tech defense in their bowl win. In terms of production, they upped their offensive numbers significantly compared to the previous year. He’s worked with some great coaches including Pat Hill, John L. Smith and Scott Linehan. He also brings NFL experience working with quarterbacks, which is another big plus. We talked to a large pool of coaches when we interviewed for this position and Jim was absolutely the best candidate we spoke to.”
McElwain’s offense at Fresno State averaged 419.5 yards per game (38th nationally) and 32.9 points per game (32nd) last season. That was a significant increase from the 2006 campaign when the Bulldogs averaged 338.2 yards per game in total offense and 23.0 points per game in terms of scoring offense. After Fresno State rolled up 571 yards of total offense and defeated Georgia Tech 40-28 in the Humanitarian Bowl, McElwain moved up to No. 18 in the Rivals.com national power rankings (offensive coaches). His quarterback, Tom Brandstater, finished 2007 with a passing efficiency rating of 140.5, which ranked 23rd in the country. Brandstater showed remarkable improvement under McElwain’s watch as he had posted a pass efficiency rating of 106.7 (89th) the previous year.
“I’m excited as heck about the opportunity to join the staff at the University of Alabama,” said McElwain. “I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m ready to hit the ground running as soon as I arrive in Tuscaloosa. Coach Saban and his staff have the Alabama football program on the rise and I want to do my part to continue that momentum. I’m leaving a great place at Fresno State and appreciate all that Coach Hill, the players, the staff, and the fans did for me and my family while we were there.”
McElwain served as the assistant head coach, receivers coach and special teams coach at Michigan State from 2003-05. The 2003 team reached the Alamo Bowl behind a receiving corps that set school records for receptions (312) and yards (3,510). He coached 2004 All-America punter Brandon Fields and kicker Dave Rayner, who led the Big Ten Conference in scoring. In 2005, five Spartan receivers had at least 28 receptions and the group combined to a set another school record with 24 touchdown catches.
“Jim is a great coach and I think he’s going to be an outstanding head coach one day,” said Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. “We’ve lost some good assistants over the years and our offensive coordinators have gone on and done well, including Jeff Tedford at Cal. That’s the nature of the business. I never want to hold anyone back from better opportunities. Jim did a great job for us and we wish him and his family all the best.”
Prior to his stint at Michigan State, McElwain spent three seasons (2000-02) at Louisville as the receivers coach and special teams coach as the Cardinals earned bowl bids in each of those three seasons. He coached four first team All-Conference USA selections at Louisville and also tutored three of the Cardinals’ all-time leading receivers, including Deion Branch and Arnold Jackson.
From 1995-99, McElwain was the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and receivers coach at Montana State. Under his direction, quarterback Rob Compson threw for nearly 7,000 career yards and a school-record 54 touchdowns. McElwain also coached the Bobcats’ all-time leading receiver Chip Hobbs, who caught 144 career passes for 2,060 yards and 18 TDs. Montana State led the Big Sky Conference in scoring in 1998, averaging 31.6 points per game.
McElwain was at Eastern Washington from 1985-94 in a variety of capacities, starting as a graduate assistant and working his way up to quarterbacks and receivers coach. The Eagles made two NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances (1992 and 1995) and earned a share of the Big Sky Championship in 1992. McElwain coached EWU’s all-time leading receiver, Tony Brooks (2,969 career yards), who earned third team AP All-America honors in 1993.
An all-state quarterback at Missoula (Montana) Sentinel High School, McElwain played quarterback at Eastern Washington from 1980-83 and earned his degree in Education in 1984. He and his wife, Karen, have three children, JoHanna, Elizabeth and Jerrett.