Jim McElwain is the top candidate to become the next head coach of the Florida Gators, according to sources, confirming a report by ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Additionally, OnlyGators.com's Adam Silverstein reports a plane believed to be used by Florida is headed for Fort Collins, Colorado.
The Colorado State head coach has a buyout of $7.5 million, according to the Denver Post, under his new five-year contract with the Rams.
McElwain has yet to be the head man at a power-conference school. He does have SEC experience as the former offensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban. Fired Florida coach Will Muschamp is also a former Saban assistant.
McElwain graduated from Eastern Washington, where he was a quarterback, and got his first coaching gig there. He moved his way up the coaching ranks with the Oakland Raiders, Fresno State and Alabama before being hired as Colorado State's head coach in 2012.
Eyes on the Skies
Florida offered its job to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, according to sources, but Freeze chose to remain in Oxford.
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was also a consideration, but concerns over the NFL coach's timeline kept conversations with McDaniels from advancing, according to sources.
Between McElwain and McDaniels, Alligator Army sees an easy choice:
McElwain strikes me to be the far more logical (and preferred) candidate. He has college football head coaching experience, SEC experience, a track record of offensive success that isn't tethered almost exclusively to Tom Brady, and a timeline that could allow him to leave Colorado State on good terms recruit for Florida even in December.
Colorado State has improved every year with McElwain at the helm, going from 4-8 to 8-6 and a New Mexico Bowl win to this year's 10-2 record. The Rams were in contention for a spot in a New Year's Day bowl as the non-power representative before being upset by Air Force in their regular season finale on a last-second field goal.
The Gators need an offensive overhaul, and the 52-year-old McElwain seems to fit the bill. His current team's top receiver, Rashard Higgins, leads the country in receiving yards (1,640) and receiving touchdowns (17). Rams starting quarterback Garrett Grayson is second in the country in quarterback rating and boasts 32 TDs and only six interceptions. In 2013, Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs led the nation with 31 rushing touchdowns.