Just a mere 10 hours after touching down at Miami-Opa Locka airport, Mario Cristobal stood in front of a few hundred people inside the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility and professed his love and respect for the University of Miami and its football program.
Cristobal played for Miami from 1989 to 1991 and won two national championships. Between FIU, where he was head coach, Alabama, where he coached one of the nation’s best offensive lines, and most recently coaching Oregon to a Rose Bowl win in 2019, he’s no stranger to what it takes to build, develop and lead a championship-caliber team.
One of the biggest benefits of coaching at a school in the heart of South Florida is the plethora of talented high school players, something Cristobal is keenly aware of.
“It’s such a densely populated, talent rich area…there’s a reason the entire country comes here to try to get the talent. It’s time to make sure the talent stays home, ” Cristobal said. “Guys play football down here not only because they want to, but because they have to. It’s life down here, it’s in the DNA. Go to local parks at any time, what are they doing, playing ball. It’s a vehicle to a better life, a better education and everything that goes with it.”
Having recruited South Florida kids all the way from Oregon, Cristobal is already familiar with a lot of the current high school players and their coaches.
“I know some of the guys from crossover recruiting,” Cristobal said. “I was kidding with them today, ‘I couldn’t get you to come all the way across the country so I had to come here to get you.’ But I know a lot of the guys.”
In 2015 as Alabama’s offensive line coach, Cristobal was named Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports. It’s clear he has a plan laid out to successfully recruit the most talented players.
“It’s not just aimless effort and enthusiasm, it falls more along the lines of really digging deep into the fit and once you understand what that is, you gotta go all in and make sure the family understands how important that person is to your program,” Cristobal said. “You’ve got to make sure they understand how they fit into your program. You’ve got to make sure they have a clear path for them to achieve academic and athletic success. You’ve got to make sure there’s a very clear vision drawn out to understand that this program is going to work its tail off to play for championships.”
Cristobal specifically noted that freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke will be a big part of the recruiting effort.
Van Dyke, who took over as starting quarterback after D’Eriq King went down with a season-ending injury, put up such impressive numbers. He finished the regular season with 2,931 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, with just six interceptions and completion rate of 62.8%.
“It’s obvious watching from afar there’s not a better quarterback in the country,” Cristobal said. “I think anyone that watches our quarterback work, you can’t help but be excited to be a member of this. So that’s going to play a big role in recruiting as well and I’m going to rely on Tyler for that as well.”
Cristobal also addressed the current talent on the roster. It’s not unusual for players to enter the transfer portal when the head coach that recruited them leaves, as is the case with Manny Diaz, who recruited most of the players currently on the roster. But Cristobal likely won’t have to deal with that, given his resume and everything he’s saying he will do for the program.
“There’s some really talented guys on the roster, but it’s our job to develop,” Cristobal said. “Its our job to bring a Power 5 super-sized development program to maximize their potential and so they get out of it what they came here to do. Some of the specs – certain size, speed combinations, flexibility, balance and body control – combined with the right heart, the right mindset, typically leads to tremendous success.”