Oregon has hired Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal to serve as the Ducks’ co-offensive coordinator and run game coordinator, the Ducks announced Tuesday.
Though it was just announced today, this is a move that has been in the works for a while.
Cristobal enjoyed considerable success at Alabama, helping the Tide win the 2015 national title and finish as a runner-up in 2016. The Tide’s offensive line won the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the best offensive line unit — in 2015, and left tackle Cam Robinson took home the Outland Trophy this fall.
Cristobal is also known for his 6-year run as head coach at Florida International and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football.
The question, beyond if he can quote-unqoute fix a running game that ranked 27th this season after recording top-10 finishes seven of the past eight seasons, is if Cristobal can help Willie Taggart and a staff with a long track record of successfully recruiting Florida and either:
A) translate that success to the West Coast, where Oregon traditionally recruits, or
B) pull Sunshine State kids all the way across the country to Eugene.
Cristobal is listed as a co-offensive coordinator, which assumes Oregon will hire another co-offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) to join Taggart’s staff.
Tuesday’s announcement did not indicate that Cristobal will call plays for the Ducks.
With some room to work on the Alabama coaching staff this offseason, head coach Nick Saban has found the right opportunity to promote Mike Locksley to a full-time offensive assistant role in Tuscaloosa. The hiring was made official by Alabama on Monday.
Locksley spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide. He spent the previous four seasons as an offensive coordinator at Maryland and was previously the head coach of New Mexico from 2009 through 2011. Locksley previously spent time in the SEC as a running backs coach and recruiting coordinator for Florida in 2003 and 2004 as well. He is a well-known recruiting machine, as if Alabama needs any extra help in that department (I say this in a joking manner, because Alabama didn’t get to where they are today without having to grind on the recruiting trail).
“We are excited to add Mike Locksley to our staff as an assistant coach on the offensive side of the football,” Saban said in a released statement. “He is an outstanding offensive mind who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as both a head coach and offensive coordinator. Mike is also one of the best recruiters in the nation and will be an excellent addition to our staff. His time as an analyst with us over the past season should also ensure a smooth transition and a full understanding of how our organization operates.”
The University of Alabama Board of Trustees still needs to approve the contract to make Locksley’s hiring official, but that should just be a formality.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be the most powerful person within the Alabama sports department, but even he has a boss. Now, he will have a new boss.
Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle is stepping down into retirement from his current position, although he will remain active in the university as a special assistant to university president Stuart Bell. Battle has been fighting through health issues and completed treatment for cancer last summer. His vacant spot in the athletics department will be filled by Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne. A formal announcement has not been made as of yet, but multiple reports have confirmed the pending Byrne hiring. (UPDATE: Alabama has since formally announced the hiring of Byrne)
”Bill has done a tremendous job as director of athletics, and has accomplished so much during his career,” Bell said, according to the Associated Press. ”His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel.”
The hiring of Byrne takes Alabama outside its own foundation to bring in an outsider to lead the sports department. Byrne is an Idaho native who has worked in an administrative role in two SEC schools, so he will be familiar with the landscape the conference has to offer. Byrne was the athletics director of Mississippi State from 2008 through 2010 before moving to Arizona for the past six years. At Mississippi State, Byrne hired football coach Dan Mullen. Byrne also held an associate AD role at Kentucky, where he directed development and fundraising efforts for the Wildcats.
Few programs deal with a January full of roster turnover quite like Alabama and that was certainly the case with a few expected decision coming from players looking to continue their careers outside of Tuscaloosa.
In addition to a trio of juniors announcing they would be leaving for the NFL Draft, backup quarterback David Cornwell followed up on his decision to transfer from the program by tweeting that he would be continuing his career at Nevada.
Cornwell was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and a former Elite 11 signal-caller prior to enrolling early at Alabama. He redshirted his first season and then was somewhat buried on the depth chart in subsequent seasons, appearing only twice in game action during the 2016 campaign.
With rising sophomore Jalen Hurts firmly entrenched as the starter for the Crimson Tide, the quarterback meeting room was naturally going to thin out and Cornwell is the third QB to leave the program in the past few months as a result. He is set to join the Wolfpack’s new head coach Jay Norvell out in Reno, where he’ll have two seasons left of eligibility as a graduate transfer starting this year.
Not surprisingly, Alabama is losing handful of underclassmen to the NFL — albeit a smaller handful than some had projected.
At the schools annual press conference for junior NFL announcements, a trio of Crimson Tide football players — cornerback Marlon Humphrey, offensive tackle Cam Robinson, wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (pictured) — confirmed that they will be leaving Tuscaloosa and make themselves available for the April NFL draft.
Robinson has been an All-American the past two seasons after earning Freshman All-American as a true freshman in 2014. He was a consensus All-American this season. Humphrey was also a Freshman All-American his redshirt season in 2015 before joining Robinson this season as an All-American.
This season, Stewart led the Tide in receiving yards (864), receiving touchdowns (eight) and yards per catch (16). His 54 receptions were second on the national title runners-up. The 6-1, 204-pound receiver finishes his ‘Bama career with 129 catches, 1,713 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Both Robinson and Humphrey were given first-round grades from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee. Stewart received an “other” grade.
There was some good news on the early-entry front as defensive backs Anthony Averett and Tony Brown, who both had considered leaving early, ultimately decided to return to Tuscaloosa for another season.