CMU Football welcomes five new additions to staff

Head Coach Jim McElwain looks on at the video board during a review against FIU, Saturday, Sept. 25.

As spring practices loom on the horizon, Central Michigan football head coach Jim McElwain announced five additions to his staff.

McElwain’s new hires are Tom Mason (assistant head coach/linebackers), Paul Petrino (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach), William Vlachos (offensive line), Ryan McNamara (general manager) and Chris Calley (recruiting coordinator). 

The Chippewas also promoted Tavita Thompson to passing game coordinator/tight ends after serving as the team’s tackles/tight ends coach since 2018. 

After a 9-4 season, McElwain’s staff lost Mike Cummings, Tim Skipper, Kevin Barbay, and multiple personnel department staffers to new career opportunities. 

“It’s always hard losing a coach and I lost some coaches that are great friends,” McElwain said. “Yet part of this profession is they get an opportunity to go make a bunch more money, get an opportunity to move up, and I’m excited for them. I think it’s great. As I tell everybody on our staff, ‘I want nothing but the best for you and your families.’ I appreciate what they did for us with their time at Central Michigan, and yet I wanted them to get the same opportunities I had doing this coaching stuff. It’s also a chance for our guys to remember what they learned from those guys, but now learn some new things from some good people that we’ve brought in here.”

During 40 years of coaching, Mason has made stops at every level of football. Most recently with the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks, as well as stops at Boise State, UTEP, Nevada, Hawaii, Eastern Washington and Southern Methodist University.

“We go back to Eastern Washington when we kinda started coaching together,” McElwain said. “I think the thing that he brings, not only the knowledge and experience of being a coordinator, but he also brings some things from an odd front and some things that we need to kinda keep growing with from the defensive side. So he brings a lot of that stuff with him too and should help us in the pressure packages that we’re putting in.”

News of Petrino’s hiring broke on Feb. 21, as Barbay announced he was accepting a position with Appalachian State. 

“Petrino’s been an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten, ACC and SEC,” McElwain said. “He’s coached in the National Football League, and he brings (that) in. From an offensive standpoint, we’re doing some pretty things on offense, and Kevin did an unbelievable job and grew into that position and is gonna do a great job at his new place. Now we get an opportunity to do the things that we do and maybe expand on them a little bit. He does a fantastic job of getting the players the ball… We’re excited to have (Petrino) on the staff.” 

After losing offensive line coach Mike Cummings in Jan. 2022, McElwain found his successor in Vlachos. A two-time All-SEC player and member of Alabama’s All-Decade team (2010-19), Vlachos played center for McElwain during his time as offensive coordinator with the Crimson Tide. 

Following a preseason stint with the Tennessee Titans Vlachos began his coaching career at his alma mater. In addition to winning two national championships as a player at Alabama, he added two more championship rings to his hand as an assistant. 

“Offensive line-wise, Coach Cummings has been here a couple of times and turned out some great offensive lines," McElwain said. "To be able to have a guy that knows exactly how I think, a guy that has been through it and understands how we practice, understands the things we’re trying to accomplish, I’m excited about it.”

With his coaches locked in, McElwain focused on bolstering his recruiting staff by bringing in Calley and McNamara.

McNamara comes to the Chippewas from Florida, who served in the quality control department since 2015, McElwains first season with the Gators.

Calley played college football at Adrian College after graduating from Warren Lincoln High School in 2004. He has coached at Adrian and Wayne State University.

“They have both recruited and now really turned into the evaluation stage,” McElwain said. “Both guys come with a huge wealth of experience. (McNamara) is a guy that was with us in Florida and did a fantastic job for us there. (Calley) most recently was coaching at Wayne State. He’s from the Detroit area, played high school there. I think it keeps us in that footprint, and I’m excited about both those guys being here.”