University of Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal, born in Miami, raised in Miami, schooled in Miami, has been trying to give his hometown NFL team the best information about his players possible before each of the past two drafts.
Cristobal last year told the Miami Dolphins to pick Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert in the first round. They didn’t.
He told the Dolphins to pick left tackle Penei Sewell this year. They didn’t.
“I killed myself with Justin. I mean I couldn’t stop calling them,” Cristobal said this week. “And with Penei, I’m like, ‘Guys, this guy’s generational. He’s better than all of them.’ And they just, I don’t know, they must not like my recommendations, man. I don’t know what to say.”
The Dolphins apparently liked Cristobal’s recommendation on defensive back Jevon Holland a lot. Because they selected Holland with the No. 36 overall pick — their first of two picks in the second round.
“That’s a phenomenal pick,” Cristobal said. “That’s a first-round talent and a first-round player. At the end of the day he played only two years of college ball, but you’ve got yourselves an absolute monster. You really did.”
“He is that really rare, large human being that can play corner, that can play nickel, can play safety,” Cristobal said. “You would get a lot out of watching his high school tape and high school highlights because when we were recruiting him — and him and Penei were in the same year — we were like, ‘All right we came here, the place is 4-8 and we got to turn this thing around and these two are game changers.’
“This guy will lock down anybody as a corner, as a nickel, as a safety. He’s going to be elite as a returner. And his personality is off the charts ... He played with guts, he played with passion, he’s a tremendous tackler — I’m talking about launching his body at people.
“He can run the alley like a safety would in quarters or go fit the box like a linebacker and stone you and knock your [butt] back. He’s an exceptional, exceptional talent. He’s an elite guy, man.”
At the Polynesian Bowl, Cristobal says Holland spent time recruiting other players to Oregon. And they bought into him.
That speaks to his leadership qualities.
“The guys gravitate to him,” Cristobal said, “because of his play and his work ethic, and mind you his dad played Canadian Football and actually trains athletes, so it’s in his DNA. He has been working at this since he was knee-high.
“His football IQ is through the roof. I know [Dolphins coach Brian] Flores is going to love him. He’s going to be very versatile and carry a very strong voice — one that’s backed up by action.”
Holland is scheduled to be part of the Dolphins’ rookie class taking part in the club’s rookie minicamp that runs Friday through Sunday. Cristobal expects the defensive back to begin distinguishing himself throughout the entire season.
“The success he has won’t be a surprise at all.” the coach said.
Last year Cristobal said Herbert would be “an absolute super stud as a pro.” The quarterback has taken a first step in that direction because he threw for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Los Angeles Chargers after he was selected No. 6 overall in the draft.
I remind Cristobal of how his prediction looks now he is not surprised.
“We had this conversation, man,” he says casually.
And as much as Cristobal loves Herbert and pushed for Herbert to the Dolphins, the former University of Miami offensive lineman has greater things to say about Sewell. And he shared those with the Dolphins.
“I told them he’s the best football player I ever coached. Hands down,” Cristobal said. “The guy won the Outland Trophy at 19 years old and he didn’t win it by a little.
“The explosive power, athleticism, the desire to kick your butt on a play-by-play basis is just different. He was different. He was elite in every aspect. From Day 1 he went out there and took the position and on game day he showed up twice as good.
“And he was excellent in practice. He tried to dominate you and let you know he did.”
In talking about Sewell, Cristobal raises an issue that applies to all his players, including Holland, because it’s part of the Oregon culture since Cristobal became coach:
“You can coach him hard,” Cristobal said. “The guys who come out of here, they’re going to be coached hard. There’s not going to be a sensitivity that they can’t get pushed. Penei was that. All of them are that.”