What is UM getting in Mario Cristobal? Let his former Oregon player, D…
In December of 2017, when Mario Cristobal went from Oregon’s co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach to interim head coach and finally long-lasting head coach all in a matter of days, Jevon Holland was part of a player movement that pushed for Cristobal following past coach Willie Taggart’s sudden departure to Florida State.
Holland was nevertheless a recruit at the time that committed while Taggart was in his one season leading the Ducks and was signing later that month. Players that were already at Oregon and the incoming recruiting class backed Cristobal’s promotion.
Fast forward four seasons, Holland is a standout rookie safety for the Miami Dolphins, and Cristobal, who won two national championships as a player for the University of Miami, returned home to accept the Hurricanes’ head coaching position on Monday.
“He’s a fireball of energy, whether we’re losing, winning, in spite of. He’s going to go out there and coach us as hard as he can,” Holland said Wednesday during the Dolphins’ bye week. “He just wanted us to become better ourselves. He was a player’s coach. People enjoyed him, enjoyed the way he coached, enjoyed his energy on the team. He was electric. You see that on the field.”
With Cristobal an offensive assistant under Taggart in their one season together in Eugene before Taggart bolted, he didn’t play an active role in Holland’s recruitment, specifically, but Holland did get to meet with him before he officially signed out of Bishop O’Dowd High in Oakland.
“I went on my official [visit], met with him, talked to him, and after that, I was like, ‘Yup, this is the guy, really,’” Holland recalled. “It was almost like we were recruiting him to [athletic director Rob] Mullins so that he could be the head coach, if you put it that way.”
Holland played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Oregon under Cristobal in 2018 and 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season and getting picked early in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft by the Dolphins.
“He’s given me a lot of sense of direction and leadership,” said Holland on what Cristobal meant to his development. “I was a young player when I had a leadership role put on my shoulders, and he promoted me throughout my career at Oregon to step into that role, use it with pride but also be one of the guys that younger guys can look to as somebody who gets there early, leaves late, does that additional one-eighth so that I can perform on the field, but also help my team win in any situation possible.
“Definitely about pushing me and understanding how to buy into a culture, really believing that and not just trying to do what I want to do. Be a team player.”
And what does Cristobal look for in his players?
“Players that have dignity, honesty, respect, they’re hard workers and they buy in,” Holland said. “That’s really what it’s all about. That’s what was reiterated to us, just about buying into the time of action, trusting it and believing in what the coaches have for us and going out there and executing.”
Holland, in his two college seasons, totaled 108 tackles and nine interceptions under Cristobal. Starting 10 of his 13 games as a Dolphins rookie, Holland has 51 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, a pair of fumble recoveries and nine pass deflections.
With Cristobal arriving at Miami this week and heavy on the recruiting trail since landing his new position, the two, as of Wednesday, hadn’t communicated about being back in the same city. They did have recent communication, however.
“He truly texted me a associate weeks ago just congratulating me on having a good season,” Holland said. “He wants guys to continue to work hard, and that’s what he reminded me. Always stay humble. Never be complacent. I’ll probably reach out to him pretty soon when everything dies down because I know it’s going crazy.”
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