By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) _ New Florida coach Jim McElwain drives by a statue of Steve Spurrier every day on his way to work.
Gator fans are hoping that Spurrier’s offensive success _ both as a former Florida player and coach _ rubs off on McElwain.
The 53-year-old McElwain, who comes to Florida after three successful seasons at Colorado State, knows the Southeastern Conference. He was Alabama’s offensive coordinator during four successful seasons from 2008 to 2011, including two national championships.
McElwain takes over for Will Muschamp, who was fired after four seasons that were marked by an anemic offense. McElwain said on Monday at SEC Media Days the current roster has talent, “We need to just pick up from that and move forward.”
It remains to be seen how quickly McElwain’s offensive influence will be felt. The Gators return only four starters on that side of the ball.
Florida struggled to pass the ball last season, ranking 12th out of 14 league teams with just 179.9 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Treon Harris returns after throwing for 1,019 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions last season, but he’s being pushed by redshirt freshman Will Grier.
McElwain said he didn’t expect the quarterback competition to negatively influence the team.
“What it comes down to is when we get there in August is which one of those guys affect the play of the other people around them to help them be successful,” McElwain said. “There’s a lot of talented guys out there that can throw it and do all that, but for some reason don’t click with the guys around them.”
McElwain said his four-year tenure under Nick Saban at Alabama helped shape his offensive philosophy, but he evolved during his three more recent seasons at Colorado State, which included a 22-16 record over three seasons, including 10-2 in his final season.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to do it the way you do it,” McElwain said. “Take the different ways you’ve learned, but make sure you’re yourself when you’re doing it.”
Florida does expect to be good on defense _ which usually wasn’t a problem even during the Muschamp years. Vernon Hargreaves III, a 5-foot-11, 198-pound cornerback, led the SEC with 13 pass breakups last season and figures to be one of the league’s stars this fall.
The Gators have seven defensive starters returning.
“I don’t think we lost our confidence in winning,” Hargreaves said. “Right now we are focused on the little things, like getting guys on time to meetings and workouts, and staying out of trouble. It’s the little things that lead to the big picture.”