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High energy from Jim McElwain brings life to struggling program

Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain watches the Chippewas practice Aug. 5 at the Bennett Track Field.

Jim McElwain wakes up, brews himself a fresh pot of coffee and gets to the office before most others.

Whether boosted by caffeine or not, the first-year Central Michigan coach said he utilizes a mindset based on the fact that a series of small victories can translate to even greater victories down the road – all stemming from the energy he brings to the program.

McElwain's players are slowly but surely becoming a byproduct of the man that leads the team.

"When you're coming in the building, you're coming in with a purpose and a reason," McElwain said. "You've got to go win that meeting first of all. Then you have to get yourself dressed and ready to go out and practice.

"That's a growth thing they learned in the spring, we're not a staff and organization that puts up with being mediocre." 

And at practice, there is plenty of noise from coaches, movement from players and, most of all, energy from everyone on the field.

McElwain can be heard through all of the shouting, cheering and crashing. He has been on his players for discipline and accomplishing exactly what they need to for a successful practice in preparation for the season.

“He’s a winning coach, wants championships, has high energy, and he loves his players," said senior linebacker Michael Oliver.

Sophomore slot receiver Kalil Pimpleton, a Virginia Tech transfer, said the same.

"Coach has come in and wants us to have nothing but focus and communication on the field," Pimpleton said. "He brings a lot of energy to the team room. It’s great.”

Communication and focus were the two biggest points McElwain wanted to change when he took over the football program last December.

McElwain said his team needed to concentrate more on football than anything else. 

“He just wants us to be locked in, focused and be able to communicate," Oliver added.

Some of those changes have been subtle, yet deliberate. McElwain has elected to practice anywhere except Kelly/Shorts Stadium and, at practice, there is no music or dancing like last season under John Bonamego. 

As practice rolls on, players are engaged with every rep and when moving between drills, there is no time wasted. Most everyone hustles to get to where they need to be on the command of a whistle that stems from McElwain's mouth.

“He brings a different type of energy, a different type of level of competitiveness and a different type of level of professionalism," Oliver said. "We just have to compete at each level.”

Senior center Steve Eipper, who has missed three of five fall camp sessions with a leg contusion, said during spring practice that the change in pace has been invigorating for the Chippewa program. 

"Since Coach Mac has come in, he has brought a whole bunch of new ideas, and it's been really good to see how the guys have adapted to that," Eipper said. "If everyone doesn't buy in, it's really hard to see a change. But everyone has and you can see the difference from just the end of last season to the spring."

McElwain is trying to bring life to a struggling program, but even he knows it's going to take the entire team to accept their roles, improve each day and right the ship.

"Here’s a team and a bunch of guys that weren’t really happy with what happened in the past, but the biggest thing for us is that they call it history for a reason," McElwain said. "It’s what you learn from it. 

"We’ve got a long way to go, but you see the little things that happen on a daily basis and you know you’re headed in the right direction.”