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Steven A

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Miami spring football game to give first glimpse at return of 'The U' as Mari Cristbal ushers in a new era.

 

Cristbal abruptly left a stable job at Oregon to help bring his alma mater back to prominence.

 

Since Miami joined the ACC in 2004, the criticisms pushed toward the football program have been loud. Miami doesn't spend. Miami doesn't care. Miami doesn't take football seriously enough. Miami doesn't invest.  

 

Well this offseason, in a long-awaited response, "The U" convinced Mari Cristbal to leave a playoff-adjacent, new-money program at Oregon to return to the beaches of Coral Gables. It also stole Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, one of the driving forces behind the Tigers' ACC dynasty, and also nabbed Broyles Award-winning offensive coordinator Josh Gattis from Michigan and picked veteran assistant Kevin Steele to run the defense. 

 

Calling Miami's spring game the start of a new era is an understatement. In front of a sold-out house at MLS Inter Miami's DRV PNK Stadium, Saturday marks the Hurricanes' reintroduction to the world of big-time college football. 

 

Even two decades after their most recent national championship, the mystique behind "The U" still remains. Between 1983 and 2001, the Hurricanes won five national championships under four different coaching staffs. No other program won more than three over that time period. Amid external criticism, the university finally stood its ground and swung for the fences. 

"The University of Miami is an institution dedicated to the pursuit of excellence," Miami president Julio Frenk wrote in September. "As our football team gets ready to kick off conference play this evening, I want to make clear that the Board of Trustees and I, as president, recognize the essential part of our brand and reputation derived from athletics and we are fully committed to building championship-caliber teams at the U." 

 

Cristbal, of course, embodies that Miami culture. He grew up in the city and played high school ball before playing offensive line on national championship squads in 1989 and 1991. Later, he served as head coach at Miami-based FIU before earning a reputation as perhaps the best Florida recruiter in America while at Alabama, including National Recruiter of the Year honors from 247Sports in 2015 after the Tide signed Calvin Ridley and Ronnie Harrison from the state. 

 

After getting promoted to head coach at Oregon, Cristbal quickly turned the program into a national contender. The Ducks went 35-13 under his leadership with three straight appearances in the Pac-12 Championship Game. More importantly, Cristbal reeled in four consecutive top-15 classes to a spot hundreds of miles away from elite talent. 

 

If Miami created the perfect coach for its program in a lab, the result would look a lot like Cristbal. But now, the good feelings from the splash hiring take a back seat. "The U" will soon expect results. 

 

Luckily, there's real reasons for excitement when the Hurricanes take the field on Saturday. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was a revelation after throwing for more than 2,600 yards in just eight starts last season, including 22 passing touchdowns. Early returns from camp are that the staff believes Van Dyke can be one of the ACC's best quarterbacks in Gattis' system. 

 

The defense has work to do after falling to No. 75 in total defense last year, but the talent has never been in question. Six of the top eight tacklers are back, while former five-stars James Williams and Leonard Taylor should step into bigger roles in Year 2. More importantly, Steele will need to find a way to bring back the swagger that has characterized the great Hurricanes defenses of the past. 

 

Additionally, Cristbal acted fast to fill holes over the offseason. The Hurricanes added Oregon offensive line transfers Jonathan Denis and Logan Sagapolu to quickly fill out the room. Running back Henry Parrish rushed for 553 yards on 5.3 yards per carry in a platoon system at Ole Miss, and should slot in nicely next to emerging talent Jaylan Knighton. Miami added eight transfers overall. Outside of highly rated UAB edge rusher Antonio Moultrie, the rest arrived from Power Five schools. 

 

Outside of Lincoln Riley joining USC, there might not be a more hyped coaching change in college football than Cristbal rejoining "The U". Managing expectations, both publicly and in his own locker room, can be a real challenge for first-year head coaches. 

 

However, with the challenge comes an opportunity to reintroduce one of the most historic programs in college football to the national stage. "The U" is back on Saturday -- at least for one day."

 

I think they nailed that one.

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I love how some OBD posters are spelling his names without the "o", as in "absent of offense". I think it should become a tradition on this site!

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On 4/15/2022 at 1:36 PM, Steven A said:

If Miami created the perfect coach for its program in a lab, the result would look a lot like Cristbal. But now, the good feelings from the splash hiring take a back seat. "The U" will soon expect results. 

They're going to remember those sentences, aren't they? Results!

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On 4/15/2022 at 3:36 PM, Steven A said:

The Ducks went 35-13 under his leadership with three straight appearances in the Pac-12 Championship Game. More importantly, Cristbal reeled in four consecutive top-15 classes to a spot hundreds of miles away from elite talent. 

This was the most telling sentence to me...I LOVE that we're pulling high profile recruits, I really do! However, I value the results on the field far more than the rankings of players/classes coming in. We had good players but GREAT coaching. Now with Lanning and company, I know we'll have GREAT players and I'm hoping we have GREAT coaching as well to get the most out of those players.

 

I find myself chomping at the bit, excited beyond measure to see what kind of product Lanning and company put on the field. I really am trying to temper my expectations, but he's made a believer out of me in much the same way Cardwell, Thornton, Hutson, Sewell and Flowe have. I'm ready to pass out the ammuntion and lets go to WAR!!!

 

*fantastic job btw in ensuring there were no O's associated with his name*

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On 4/15/2022 at 1:57 PM, Wrathis said:

*fantastic job btw in ensuring there were no O's associated with his name*

Thanks, I almost spelled Oregon, "Regn", since he misused the O while here.

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He inherits a stellar QB. Like he inherited Justin Herbert. It will be fascinating to see how the O performs under Mario and new OC Gattis.

 

Gattis won the Broyles award last season because he had a great OL and a great D that covered up many of the Wolverines errors on O. 

 

I think that Miami could get blown up at A+M in 2022? IMO, Miami will not be able to road grade the A+M D. The penultimate regular season game at Clemson should also be very interesting.

 

I do not think the Mario hype will be proved up? However, playing in a smaller stadium, the Miami spring game is sold out.

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35-13 with Cristbal personally losing at least 4 of the 13.............

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I'm not feeling Christobal with the same disdain as I did Taggart. I think Miami will get the same upswing in recruiting and on-field success that Oregon did with MC as head coach. To me, MC's pregame and in-game coaching abilities were always a question, and that's an answer that we'll get after a couple of seasons with him at the helm of Miami.
 

A resurgent Miami will be good for the ACC, and ultimately has the potential to be good for the Pac-12 if we're talking alliances vs. the SEC in the future.

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So the U is back, interesting use of the term back, to a soccer stadium, they have never played in, twice as far away from campus than their adopted stadium, Hardrock Stadium, to make sure they fill it up.

 

I'm just glad we have a campus where World Class Track and Field, Soccer, Baseball and Softball can occur along with a Spring Football game on the same day. Just happy to be a Duck fan living the dream!

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I hope Miami fans like 5 yard passes on 3rd and long.

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