Jim McElwain on Central Michigan football players: 'They're embarrassed'

Central Michigan University head football Coach Jim McElwain speaks at halftime at the men's basketball game on Jan. 12 in McGuirk Arena.

One win. 12 games.

That was the 2018 season for Central Michigan under former coach John Bonamego.

Jim McElwain said the program is "embarrassed." Following CMU's 1-11 performance, the new coach is ready to revolutionize the culture.

"They're committed to something bigger than themselves," McElwain said on the CMU Sideliners Coaches Show. "Our main mindset right now is to invest in yourself so others can trust. To get something you never had, you have to do something you've never done."

McElwain, since being hired on Dec. 2, has set a "no dead fish" policy in the office, on the football field and in each positional meeting room. Essentially, it's intact everywhere.

"Go ahead and walk by Kroger and take a look at the faces on those fish," McElwain said. "If you come into the office like that, get the heck out. There are no dead fish. I want guys with energy and excitement."

Every player has a fresh start, and that's something McElwain has stressed to each individual. He said if the old coaching staff put a certain athlete in the "dog house," they are now free to prove themselves on the field.

"I don't even know what the dog house is," McElwain said. "You can either stay in or get out of it."

McElwain said he has not researched any of CMU's players since arriving in Mount Pleasant. He's talked with each twice for individual meetings and explained nobody on the team has "freedom of consequence."

"They needed to know it's a blank slate," McElwain said. "I didn't do any research. It means nothing. They have an opportunity to prove who they are and what they are all about."

When McElwain was building his staff, he decided to bring "the band back together," and a lot of coaches from "bigger conferences" reached out to express interest in joining the Chippewas.

"This is a staff that truly cares about the players," McElwain said. "They are involved every single day of their life."

Along with saying the starting quarterback competition is an "open position," McElwain stressed the need for strength in numbers on the offensive line.

"There was a big need at offensive line," McElwain said. "The guys here are good, but the numbers were out of balance. That's nothing to say about the previous staff. Sometimes, it just happens."

On the offensive line, the Chippewas return sophomore Jamezz Kimbrough, junior Derek Smith, senior Steve Eipper, junior Jeff Strome, redshirt sophomore Nick Follmer and redshirt sophomore Erik Ditzhazy all of which earned significant playing time in 2018.

New additions to the front line are freshmen Vashon Bailey, Danny Motowski and Deiyantei Powell-Woods along with Foothill College (JUCO) transfer Jake Dominguez.

Two offensive linemen who were unable to play in the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules are Ja'Raymond Hall (Michigan) and Luke Goedeke (Wisconsin Stevens Point). Before his firing, Bonamego gave both high praise.

"We have two offensive tackles that transferred in, so we've got some guys that are emerging," Bonamego said, speaking on Hall and Goedeke.

McElwain said spring practice starts on March 19.