Mario Cristobal hits reset button with new coordinators as he approaches significant Year 2 at Miami

After it introduction as new Miami coach, former Hurricanes player, assistant and hometown favorite Mario Cristobal said he can’t wait “fight for the championshipHowever, the Hurricanes floundered on his debut, finishing 5-7 in their worst season since 2007. .

Defense coordinator Lance Guidry arrives from Marshall replace Kevin Steele, who left for the same job with Alabama. Houston Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson reportedly not far behind after the hurricanes switched to by Josh Gattis. For Cristobal to surpass recent standards at Coral Gables, the three of them need to team up quickly. Since joining the team in 1979, Howard Schnellenberger, no second-year coach has won at least seven victories. (Schnellenberger’s predecessor, Lou Saban, went 6-5 in his second and final year in 1978.)

If Cristobal fails to reach that modest threshold, then there will be serious questions about whether a championship fight is really on the agenda under his leadership.

Cristobal led Oregon to a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory with a 12-2 final record in his second season in Eugene. He’s also exactly 67-67 in 12 seasons at three different jobs, but 2019’s efforts stand out on his resume as a beacon of hope that maybe good things are in store for Miami.

A new identity in crime?

A 2021 Broyles Award winner as Michigan’s offensive coordinator, Gattis led the Wolverine to a Big Ten championship and college football playoff berth. These powers seemingly made him the rock star hired for Cristobal, but the Miami attack failed in 2022. The Hurricanes were ranked 86th nationally in total offense and 96th in offensive scoring. In fact, his 23.6 points per game was inflated by a 70–13 win over Bethune-Cookman in the season opener; Otherwise, the Canes would have averaged less than 20 points per game.

Most worrying was the regression of quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who struggled as a sophomore after a breakout 2021 season under former head coach Manny Diaz and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashley. The loss of leading wide receivers Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley didn’t help Van Dyke, nor did Miami’s new setup.

When Dawson arrives from Houston, Van Dyke gets a chance to get back in shape. As a longtime Houston assistant coach to Dana Holgorsen (Dawson also worked for Holgorsen in West Virginia), Dawson brings experience with air raid plans to Miami. For reference: Houston quarterback Clayton Tune passed for 4,074 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2022 during his third season with Dawson.

But what kind of autonomy will Cristobal grant Dawson?

The Cougars threw the ball about 55% of the time last season; Miami’s passing distribution was much closer to 50-50, and the Hurricanes actually ran a little more. And in Cristobal’s time in Oregon, the Ducks were much more known for their ground game. This is contrary to the traditional spirit of air raids.

Cristobal is a former offensive lineman who worked as an offensive line coach. Historically, football management has been his priority. Taking a philosophical look at Dawson’s roots in Air Raids will be a critical test for Cristobal in the coming months. If the Keynes shift to a more pass-oriented approach, the next question will be whether they have enough pass-catching talent to make it work.

How about a set of chops?

There is inherently less chance of conflict between Guidry and Cristobal given that Cristobal’s experience is on the attacking side of the ball. Guidry probably wouldn’t have left the Tulane position he had just taken on in Miami without assurances that he would have the freedom to direct the defense of Miami as he saw fit.

Last season at Marshall, Guidry led a team that finished first in defense from a third down, sixth in scoring defense, and eighth in overall defense. Apparently he was pushing the right buttons for the Thunder Herd. However, this is Guidry’s first appearance in Power Five and comes with some unique challenges.

In particular, Guidry and Dawson would be tasked with recruiting at a higher level than ever before. While Dawson spent years in Power Five programs like Kentucky and West Virginia years ago, Miami is looking to recruit athletes of a different caliber than those programs.

Gattis was a seasoned veteran of high-level recruiting battles, having served as offensive recruiting coordinator in Vanderbilt and Pennsylvania under James Franklin. 247Sports also notes that he helped Alabama and Michigan get four- and five-star prospects during his time there. Similarly, Steele knew the upper rungs of the recruiting business as well as anyone, having worked in Florida, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, and Auburn over the years.

After all, Cristobal is an elite recruiter in his own right. Perhaps this is his best skill. But the arrival of two new coordinators only adds to the pressure on Cristobal and his position coaches, who are forced to go down the path of acquiring talent.

The 2023 Hurricanes class finished seventh overall. 247Rating of sports teams and first in ACC. It was a great start for a program led by Cristobal, and the program could catch on after a tough start. However, Diaz also enjoyed his share of recruiting victories, and they only resulted in modest triumphs on the field.

Other Power Five staffers such as TCU’s Sonny Dykes, USC’s Lincoln Riley, and LSU’s Brian Kelly reached conference title games in early seasons, with Dykes’ team vying for the national title. In Cristobal’s own conference, Duke’s Mike Elko made a remarkable turnaround in his first year, leading the Blue Devils to a 9-4 mark after three wins in the 2021 season.

Cristobal’s recruiting acumen and status as a program icon help him in Miami. However, the early success of many other coaches from the 2021 cycle only adds to the pressure on Cristobal to fight for the championship – as he promised to do when he accepted the job.

Doing so with two new coordinators in 2022 will not be easy, but Cristobal’s willingness to step outside of his own coaching circle and offensive comfort zone is a sign that he understands the stakes and may be ready to adapt to repeat the second year’s leap that has created his reputation in Oregon.


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