Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
UM Hurricanes football coach Al Golden always reminds his players to "uphold the legacy.''
Al is doing a pretty good job of it himself.
Bringing in Mario Cristobal as an assistant coach and associate head coach makes him the third former Hurricanes player to serve as one of the main assistants.
The others, of course, are linebackers coach Micheal Barrow and offensive line coach Art Kehoe.
Former UM players are thrilled. I spoke to a couple of them who were coached by Mario when he was a graduate assistant. Both were on the offensive line and started on the 2001 national championship team -- right tackle Joaquin Gonzalez and right guard Martin Bibla.
"I think Mario is a great hire because of his personality and attitude,'' Gonzalez told me. "He’s a winner. I was shocked when FIU let him go. It will be hard to find anybody that is filled with more passion to win. He’s ready to rock ‘n roll… that’s why he’s so good at recruiting.
"If Mario has to drive 18 straight hours to talk to a recruit, you bet your ass he’ll do it. He won’t wait for the plane. His intensity to work and be a winner is second to none.
"When he was a graduate assistant, Mario would be breaking down film from two years prior, and he’d stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning doing it. He really wanted to win. You Have to admire a guy who’s willing to work that hard. If you’re a lazy person, he’s not for you.
"I was never the biggest, the strongest or the fastest,'' concluded Gonzalez, "but I really worked my ass off to get where I got to at UM, in the pros, my whole career, and Mario did it the exact same way.''
Also happy to hear the news: former guard Bibla.
“That’s outstanding,’’ said Bibla, now a state trooper in Pennsylvania. “He’s a phenomenal guy. I’d go to bat for him no matter what. Art Kehoe was my coach, but if I couldn’t get a hold of Art I had total confidence in Mario. He’s a wealth of knowledge.’’
Bibla said Cristobal goes out of his way to help players progress.
“He’ll bend over backwards to help players better themselves,’’ Bibla said. “He puts a different spin on things. It seems like he’s up on coaching techniques and whatever you’re doing that’s relevant to the game.
“He evolves with the game.
“If I was 17 again and trying to find a college to play ball at, I’d look at him as a good father figure. And if I was the father, I’d trust him to cultivate my son into not only a good football player but an outstanding person.’’Former UM coach Jimmy Johnson, who had Mario for one year, told me he first met Cristobal in his Miami home when he was recruiting his older brother Luis – a guard at UM. “Not only will he help the coaching and enthusiasm,’’ Johnson said of Cristobal, “he’ll be an outstanding recruiter as well.
“He’ll do a great job. I’m really happy [coach] Al [Golden] got him.’’SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Mario Cristobal is returning to where it all began for him in college.
Cristobal, who has long been discussed as a potential head coach at UM should Al Golden ever leave, was fired last month as head football coach of FIU, and will be the University of Miami’s new tight ends coach, according to a source close to the situation.
Cristobal played at UM from 1988 through 1992, and won two national titles there. He coached at UM as a graduate assistant from 1998 through 2000, then as an assistant from 2004 through 2006.
Brennan Carroll, who has been the tight ends coach at UM, will shift to wide receivers coach.
Cristobal, who led FIU to its only two bowl games, was dismissed from FIU on Dec. 5 after coaching there for six seasons. He finished 3-9 with the Panthers in 2012 and 27-47 overall.
Cristobal is replacing former UM wide receivers coach George McDonald, who left UM for the same position at Arkansas.
Cristobal grew up in Miami and was an offensive lineman for the Hurricanes.
He is a good recruiter and knows the area as well as anyone.
His whole family is here, and this is the place he really wanted to stay. How do you all feel about him coming back to UM?
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Although no one at the University of Miami has announced it as official yet, Mario Cristobal has been hired as the program's new tight ends coach and associate head coach.
For Cristobal, who was fired as FIU coach last month, it's yet another Hurricane homecoming. This will be his fourth stint with the program. He won two national championships as an offensive lineman in 1989 and 1991; was a graduate assistant at Miami from 1998 through 2000; and returned as an assistant coach from 2004 through 2006.
Smart move for the Canes? Absolutely. With pending NCAA sanctions hanging over head and the possibility that coach Al Golden could always bolt if the right job opens up, Miami has hired someone who loves the program beyond belief and will not only step in as coach should Golden leave, but help the Canes battle through the rough times.
Cristobal's addition will instantly be a major help for Miami in recruiting, particularly in South Florida. He's always had strong ties to all of the region's top high school programs, and recruited all parts of talent-rich Florida extensively when he was at FIU.
Are some surprised he took this job? Yes. According to someone close to Cristobal, he was seriously considering taking an assistant NFL job with Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Bucs. While the UM job had been discussed for more than a week I've been told, some one close to him believed Cristobal was leaning toward the NFL.
Ultimately, Golden, who always had a good relationship with Cristobal, did enough to convince him to join the staff at Miami. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, who coached with Cristobal at Rutgers (2001-02), also had to have played a role making Cristobal feel comfortable. D'Onofrio has the title of assistant head coach at Miami.