Mailbag: How much did Cristobal tinker with the offense?
Plus: Who wins in a hypothetical basketball game between all-time Oregon Americans and Canadians?
This week’s mailbag has answers to questions about the Autzen turf, a hypothetical Canada vs. U.S. hoops showdown and the latest construction plans on campus.
But first we begin with a question about the governor on the golf cart.
We heard so much about how Cristobal dragged on his coordinators, but the info is often unsourced and we see few details. Curious if you have any nuggets or stories that didn't make their way into a piece that you're willing to touch on now that Cristobal is gone. — Shane H.
Every spring at The Athletic we had to write our State of the Programs. The concept was a modern-day Athlon Magazine — comprehensive guides to the teams we covered that were an absolute pain to write. Don’t get me wrong, the product turned out strong. I just don’t like writing stories that have a template format. They can get you into trouble for no good reason.
For example: The second section was titled “Biggest question.”
And in the spring of 2019, that question for Oregon was its offense. The Ducks had a blossoming-but-inconsistent star at quarterback in Justin Herbert and a maturing offensive line, but the last game I saw Oregon play before writing my 2019 SOTP was the Redbox Bowl.
And to this day, not enough time has passed to wash that game from my memory.
Arroyo will have more pressure on him this season than any other assistant. He’s an important part of a staff that draws rave reviews on the recruiting trail, but with a Heisman-caliber quarterback, five returning starters on the offensive line, a returning 1,000-yard running back and some new pieces at wide receiver, Arroyo’s offense must consistently produce at a high level if Oregon wants to reach its lofty goals.
Anyway, that story earned me a few brief DMs from the now-UNLV head coach — as well as a call from his agent, who made it known that Arroyo wasn’t the only straw stirring the drink of the offense.
So the same was assumed of Joe Moorhead’s offense the last two seasons, one that ranked sixth in conference total offense in 2020 (412.9 ypg), fifth in 2021 (423.6 ypg) and drew similar criticisms for its sometimes-conservative nature.
So I poked around a bit and spoke to a former staff member with knowledge of Cristobal’s handling of the offense. Here’s what I learned:
It was always the coordinator’s offense. Cristobal has an offensive background, yes, but he hasn’t called plays. And while he often challenged his coordinators on the “why” of certain aspects of their offense/defense, he didn’t often get in the way of planning.
That doesn’t mean, however, that in specific situations he wouldn’t override a pass in favor of a run. That happened at Oregon – and everywhere else in the country.
Moorhead had more freedom than Arroyo, who wasn’t allowed to plan Herbert into the running game until the Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl of his senior season. Herbert rushed 58 times for 50 yards as a senior. In Moorhead’s offense, Anthony Brown Jr. rushed 151 times for 658 yards in 2021. Herbert’s legs (536 yards and 8 touchdowns in two seasons) have made him one of the NFL’s dynamic young dual-threat quarterbacks.
Cristobal and Moorhead had basic philosophical differences: Moorhead favored a spread, 11-personnel offense, whereas Cristobal liked to pack two tight ends in and play 12-personnel football.
Cristobal had two former head coaches as his coordinators in 2021. And while that showed a coach who felt comfortable in his own position, it also put three guys who have been the guy under the same roof, where actions could be misconstrued as questioning one’s credentials.
Like most do, this one ends up somewhere in the middle. Cristobal was the head coach, who is going to have a vision for the offense like any head coach would. And there’s no doubt he leaned on the conservative end of the offensive spectrum. But I do give him credit for seeing that and hiring someone like Moorhead, even if their conflicting styles would eventually cause them to butt heads.
Hi Tyson! Do you have any information on the new facility upgrades happening? I feel like I missed an announcement about them but I have seen the designs and they look awesome! Adam B.
The Ducks announced a new 170,000-square-foot indoor practice facility last fall. The project is slated for completion in 2024. The Moshofsky Center, which was the conference’s first indoor practice facility when it opened in 1998, will still be used by other Oregon athletic teams.
It will be privately funded, UO said.
The Oregon golf program is planning a new 6,000-square-feet facility at Emerald Valley Golf Club, with hopes of breaking ground later this year. The facility will “serve as a state-of-the-art practice, instruction and teaching facility that allows Oregon men's and women's golfers use of the latest in golf technology and resources in a weather-protected environment. The facility will include three oversized driving range bays with integrated TrackMan technology, an indoor putting studio and covered outdoor heated driving range,” according to UO.
With the new push to get rid of field turf after OBJ's injury in the Super Bowl, why do the Oregon schools refuse to use real grass in the best grass-growing state in the country? Zach
Oregon had something special going in the late 1960s. Autzen was completed in 1967 and the 1969 addition of AstroTurf and lights was viewed as the perfect addition for a team that had the explosive Bobby Moore on offense.
“We enjoy running the ball and now we will love it when it rains,” Oregon coach Jerry Frei said in the summer of 1969. “You can always use fast people and not worry about having to put in some single-wing power play for a muddy field. And you don’t have to go outside to look at the sky every day and try and figure out what kind of surface you’ll be using come Saturday. You know what the field will be like for every game.”
The only time Autzen has had grass since the 1969 installation was in 2016, when grass was hauled in to host an International Championships Cup soccer match.
Look, every study you’re going to find is going to point to grass being safer. It was a massive point of emphasis in the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s discrimination lawsuit.
But ultimately, this is college football. And the vast majority of college football programs are going to side with the material that’s more cost effective — especially in a state like Oregon, which has plenty of grass and even more mud.
From a description of the turf in a 1969 edition of the Corvallis Gazette-Times:
They’ll be a layer of crushed rock base and a layer of asphalt. Bonded to the asphalt will be a 2/3 inch shock-absorbing pad to which is bonded a 15-ounce polyester and nylon backing to which is knitted the 5/8 inch high nylon pile.
It just won’t be the same without that ankle-deep natural mud that Oregon football teams, bands and fans have oozed through these many years.
And isn’t that a happy prospect to contemplate.
Is it considered ethically wrong for a new head coach to try to "flip" a recruit committed to that coach's former team? If not, should it be?
It’s another thing that has a bit of nuance to it. Are there situations that most people can get behind? Sure. There are definitely times where a player commits to a coach, only wants to play for that coach and it shouldn’t be a big deal if they want to follow said coach. I hate how much of an impact that can have to the departing program — Oregon’s 16 decommittments after Cristobal left, Oklahoma losing its star quarterback after Lincoln Riley left — but I don’t really know how to solve that issue.
I think where you get into unethical territory is when you’re a coach who is still on staff that’s using one university’s resources to benefit your position at the next job.
You have to win one game using a seven-man Altman-era rotation of players from Canada or the United States. Which flag are you flying? Derek E.
It really is a nice national anthem. “Ohhhhh Cannnnnaaada.”
And it really is a nice roster for the Canucks in this fictional one-off. For a little background: the secret sauce to Oregon’s success over the last decade has been the Ducks’ consistent recruiting of Canada for talent.
And it makes for a starting five deep with star power for the Ducks, eh?
G: Dylan Ennis
G: Chris Duarte1
F: Dillon Brooks
PF: MiKyle McIntosh
C: Chris Boucher
Top reserves: Jason Calliste, Eugene Omoruryi
But the Americans are no slouches, either.
G: Payton Pritchard
G: Joseph Young
SF: Tyler Dorsey
PF: Elgin Cook
C: Jordan Bell
Top reserves: Troy Brown Jr., Kenny Wooten
The Americans have three dynamic scoring guards around the perimeter, though I’m a little worried about how they’d share the ball. You could run the offense through Young with both Pritchard and Dorsey available as catch-and-shoot outlets. You certainly have options.
The Americans would have no answer for Brooks. One of my favorite things about watching Brooks for his three years at Oregon was his ability to figure out the soft spot in zones around the top of the key. Once he figured an opponent out, he was unstoppable. Dorsey wouldn’t be able to defend Brooks alone.
There is a chance that Duarte is able to control this whole game in a similar fashion to Kawhi Leonard. He’s the best defender on both teams — with apologies to Jordan Bell — and he may just end up being the best NBA player of the whole group. Him being able to defend 1 through 3, with Boucher covering the rest from the inside, would be incredibly hard to score on.
The Canadians might actually have the more complete roster — Calliste is an assassin coming off the bench — but I’ll take the Americans to win a single game. Pritchard, Young and Dorsey are three of the most heat-check athletes I’ve ever covered. USA just needs one of them to get hot to completely take over a game.
— Tyson Alger
Duarte was raised in the Dominican Republic, but his father was Canadian.