The Michigan football team lost its first assistant of the offseason Sunday, as former wide receivers coach Jim McElwain was announced as the next head coach of Central Michigan.
And it appears that the Wolverines have their interim coach in place.
Speaking on the Peach Bowl coaches teleconference Sunday evening, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed McElwain’s departure, and said that offensive analyst Ben McDaniels would replace McElwain as the receivers coach during the team’s bowl preparation.
McDaniels, who is the younger brother of current New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, has served as an offensive analyst all season. Previously, he held the same role for the Chicago Bears for two seasons. Now 38, McDaniels has bounced around between the college and NFL ranks, coaching at Rutgers (offensive coordinators and quarterbacks in 2015, receivers in 2014), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (offensive analyst in 2013), Columbia (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2012) and the Denver Broncos (quarterbacks in 2010, offensive analyst in 2009) in the last decade.
McDaniels was picked over former Michigan star receiver and current graduate assistant Roy Roundtree, who also coached receivers at Indiana State in 2017.
While there’s no way of knowing who was most responsible for the receivers’ growth, Michigan’s wideouts improved substantially in 2018. Led by Donovan Peoples-Jones (39 catches, 541 yards, seven touchdowns) and Nico Collins (33 catches, 552 yards, six touchdowns), the Wolverines’ receivers have 1,547 yards and 17 touchdowns after totaling 1,142 and three touchdowns a season ago.
While Roundtree and McDaniels were new additions that undoubtedly helped, McElwain — whose previous three stops included head-coaching duties at Florida and Colorado State and offensive coordinator duties at Alabama — was arguably overqualified for the job, and left an impression on Harbaugh.
“Jim McElwain, looks like he’s going to be the next head coach at Central Michigan,” Harbaugh said, later going out of his way to praise the future Chippewas leader. “I wanna say I really like Jim a lot. I’m really excited for him. I think it’s a great fit.”
McDaniels will have his work cut out for him this month, as Florida’s pass defense ranks 10th nationally 175.1 passing yards allowed per game, 13th with a 53.4-percent completion rate allowed, 18th in allowing 6.1 yards per attempt and 18th in passer rating allowed (112.33). The Gators’ starting secondary is all underclassmen, but include three former top-200 recruits in CJ Henderson, Brad Stewart and Trey Dean.
Michigan, ranked seventh nationally in the final College Football Playoff rankings Sunday, will take on No. 10 Florida December 29 in Atlanta, Georgia for the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The Wolverines might not be done with the coaching carousel by then, as passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton is a finalist for the Maryland head-coaching job, and history suggests that more assistants could be considered for roles across the country as well.