Cristobal’s Offensive Line Performance Stinks: Time to Return to Basics

David Marsh Editorials

Mario Cristobal has built his coaching career on the offensive line. It has been both a point of pride and emphasis when it comes to putting his mark on the Oregon program. It is also the root of his desire for Oregon to be physical and to physically overpower and dominate the opposition into submission.

The sad fact of the matter is that Oregon’s offensive line stinks.

Much has been said about QB Anthony Brown and the skill players failing to execute during last Saturday’s game against Fresno State, though there has been an aversion to state the obvious: the offensive line is failing to produce for the Ducks. More troubling still — this isn’t a young offensive line, as the entire line is composed of second-year starters, and many are in their fourth year with the program. Yet the offensive line play was sloppy and looked just as bad as it did last year. Several runs that went for good yardage were called back for holding on Saturday, and this is often a sign of an offensive lineman getting beat and resorting to desperate and sloppy technique.

This is simply unacceptable for the a team whose head coach prides himself as an offensive line coach and wants a physical team that is able to dominate the trenches.

Does this look like an offensive line dominating lesser competition?

Over the past couple years, Offensive Line Coach Alex Mirabal and Cristobal have both emphasized cross-training the offensive line and creating flexibility so they can always put the best five players on the field. On paper, this idea is brilliant because the ability to substitute a fresh offensive linemen or even just move players around to change the look for the opposing defense could both be game-changers. It sounds great, but it hasn’t worked.

Instead, the result is that Oregon has a line composed of inconsistent o-linemen instead of an elite bulldozer. For all the talent and size recruited on the offensive line, Oregon isn’t any better off. Despite this, Cristobal still insists that moving offensive linemen around isn’t a problem.

It is time to focus on the five best linemen at their position and build a cohesive unit. Spring is the time to cross-train linemen in case of injury because Spring camp is a great time to experiment and make adjustments. By the time the season kicks off, we need a dependable offensive line that works with one mind.

We’ve been given glimpses of what this line can accomplish. There were times where it opened giant holes for the runners, but for a majority of the first game, Oregon’s offensive line was ineffective. To make matters worse, Cristobal seems to be insistent on running the ball up the gut and between the tackles. If this is what Cristobal wants to do, he needs to put an offensive line on the field that can make the holes for the running backs.

Cristobal’s Greatest Success At Oregon

Penei Sewell played left tackle with incredible integrity and fundamentals.

Penei Sewell was Oregon’s first Outland Trophy winner and was taken seventh in the NLF Draft. Sewell is possibly the best offensive lineman in Oregon’s history, and a product of Cristobal and Mirabal. If Sewell had opted to play another year at Oregon, fans were ready to back him as a Heisman candidate because he was that good.

Sewell is, hands down, Cristobal’s greatest success at offensive line in his time at Oregon. This is because Sewell played left tackle exclusively. He came in as a freshman and quickly settled in at left tackle, and became an outstanding player at that position. The coaches didn’t move him around; they kept him in one position and allowed him grow to dominate.

Cristobal’s offensive line experiment has failed, but its not too late. Cristobal can create a first team offensive line built around a solid five players that can grow into a dominant force. Joe Moorhead will build an offense to make this offensive line look good, but the line needs an established rotation of players.

It’s time to go back to basics and build the offensive line coaches and fans alike want to see at Oregon.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By Scott Kelley

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.

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