Miami Hurricanes head football coach Mario Cristobal has fired offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis. After a 5-7 season that saw Miami’s SP+ rating plummet 77th in FBS- the ‘Canes head man has gone in another direction. Gattis came to Miami from Michigan with his Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant in hand.
Before the Gattis firing, Mario Cristobal “pulled a Saban” and placed Frank Ponce back at Appalachian State in his former role there as OC. The Mountaineers are on Ponce round three, and Miami is in need of an OC/QB coach, and a WR coach for ‘23.
The coach gossip circles have been in full swing over Gattis (more so than Ponce) and Ponce for months. Former UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo has always been the front-runner for the position since being fired out in Las Vegas.
Arroyo served as a co-OC with Cristobal at Oregon, and he is connected to Jim Michalczik, a former Miami assistant under Dennis Erickson from 1990-1991. It just so happens that Mario Cristobal was on those Miami teams.
Arroyo, a Sacramento native, played quarterback and coached at San Jose State. Arroyo has connections to not only Cristobal, but Dennis Erickson, Jeff Tedford, Todd Monken, and Mike Yurcich. Those are some exciting, creative names in the world of play calling.
Why do I think it’s Arroyo over anyone else? Mario Cristobal is a guy that hires with familiarity. He’s known Ponce, Alex Mirabal, Aaron Feld, and Joe Salave’a for years, and he’s very familiar with Arroyo. Arroyo has ran the offense that Cristobal likes back in their time in Eugene together.
Also, Arroyo can handle Cristobal’s ‘yelling just to yell’ and #GrindSZN personality. I can see long-time Raiders assistant Nick Holz being brought in as the WR coach under Arroyo. He’s a WR coach by trade, and a former WR himself, also he served as Arroyo’s OC at UNLV in 2022.
Arroyo as the Oregon OC
Marcus Arroyo served as the Ducks co-OC with Cristobal in 2017 under offensive minded head coach Willie Taggart. In 2016 under Mark Helfrich, the Ducks offense was 6th in SP+. Justin Herbert was a true freshman playing for Oregon after Dakota Prukop was injured. The QB’s threw for over 3,100 yards with 27 TD’s and six interceptions combined in ‘16.
In ‘17, with Herbert as the clear starter, the Ducks offensive SP+ dipped to 28th. Herbert played in eight games due to injury but the Ducks rushed for over 3,000 yards and Herbert was 15:5 TD:INT on 9.6 yards per attempt.
In ‘18 with Arroyo as the clear OC, the offensive SP+ slid a smidge to 31st in FBS. The Ducks finished 9-4 and Herbert threw 29 TD’s with 8 INT’s in 13 games.
In 2019, the Ducks SP+ was 23rd offensively with Herbert making a name for himself as a 1st round NFL Draft pick. Herbert averaged only 8.1 yards per attempt, while throwing 32 TD’s with only six INT’s. The Ducks finished 12-2. This is the season that gave Arroyo the status to become the UNLV head coach.
After Arroyo left, Oregon’s SP+ were 17th in 2020, 22nd in 2021, and 6th in 2022 under a new head coach and new OC in Kenny Dillingham.
In the 2020 Rose Bowl, the Ducks knocked off the Wisconsin Badgers 28-27. Herbert averaged only 6.6 yards per attempt with a pick and the Ducks averaged only 2.2 yards per carry including sacks (two allowed). Herbert didn’t throw a touchdown, but he rushed for three on 3.2 yards per carry (sack yards included).
Above- Play-action dig concept is a staple of the Cristobal-Arroyo playbook.
Above- Split zone setting up a TD for Oregon.
Above- I hope that Tyler Van Dyke can cut weight and at least move half this well in ‘23.
Arroyo as the Rebels head coach
After the success of the Ducks with QB Justin Herbert, Arroyo was snapped up by the UNLV Rebels to try to put some offensive firepower in the desert. Before Arroyo, the Rebels SP+ on offense was 114th in FBS in 2019.
Under Arroyo, UNLV’s offensive SP+ numbers were 108th in 2020, 117th in 2021, and 96th in 2022. Arroyo’s record as a head coach was 7-23, including 0-6 during the COVID season in ‘20.
Arroyo’s best season, the 2022 season, saw the Rebels finish 5-7 and 76th in points per game (of 131) with 26.3 PPG. QB Doug Brumfield averaged only 7.5 yards per attempt, threw 10 TD’s and five INT’s in 10 games in 2022.
In ‘21, Arroyo tried four QB’s including Cameron Friel, Brumfield, Justin Rogers, and TATE MARTELL. While in ‘20 the Rebels also used multiple QB’s trying to figure out what would work, including Rogers and Brumfield.
While never really finding a true starting QB over his three years in Vegas, Arroyo had 1,000 yard rushers in ‘21 and ‘22.
I plan to break down more film once an OC has been hired. However, you get a solid glimpse of the Arroyo playbook from this UNLV win over New Mexico in 2022. Plenty of the Cristobal-Oregon offense, with some nice wrinkles to adjust to the talent he had at QB.
Speed option, naked boots, OZ read- a lot of ‘mobile QB’ things going on at UNLV. Some sloppy mistakes including the QB running out of bounds on 3rd and long, a bad fumble and the QB trips on his own feet off of weird footwork.
Play-action passes hitting 10 yard ins and posts are there, like in Mario’s playbook. Of course pistol looks which were really hammered in by long time pistol run game guru Jim Mastro. Mastro is a running backs coach from the Nevada Chris Ault years (2000-2010) before moving on to UCLA, Washington State and Oregon.
Above- Good to see my baby, Split Zone, could be featured in the offense again
Above- Play-action off of SZ, the TE stays in to help block the edge and the drag route comes free.
Above- Miami has to get their screen game going, including perimeter blocking. One of the worst perimeter blocking teams I’ve seen in years.
Pros and Cons of Arroyo as OC
The Pros are that Arroyo and Cristobal have directly worked together, even sharing OC duties at Oregon. That means Arroyo knows how to handle Cristobal, and lives up to the head guy’s work rate. Arroyo is an experienced QB coach, which Tyler Van Dyke and Miami need desperately to ‘fix’ both Van Dyke and Jacurri Brown’s mechanics.
Arroyo has experience in the ‘run first’ spread that Cristobal wants to run at Miami. He’s also worked with Alex Mirabal his O-Line coach. Many rumors regarding Gattis, Ponce, and Mirabal was the lack of staff cohesion and being on the same page. Cristobal, Mirabal, and Arroyo will for sure be on the same page moving forward in ‘23.
Arroyo was also trusted by Monken and Tedford, as well as Taggart (say what you want, but I’m fairly certain he called the Harbaughs prior to the hire) and Cristobal prior.
The Cons are the last thing Cristobal needs, although he clearly wants it, is another ‘yes man’ on his coaching staff. Some outside-think would be greatly beneficial.
I have a feeling in the S&C department, Bryan Mann and Eric Renaghan are offering just that for the ‘Canes already this off-season. The ‘comfort hire’ in Feld has been given a shot of modern thinking from Dr. Mann and Renaghan.
Cristobal could really use a shot in the arm of modern offense, and dump that old Alabama 2015 playbook behind. Alabama has, why won’t Cristobal? I hope that Arroyo has the desire to be a head coach again, because that will keep him hungry to do more and more, rather than rest on being at The U. If he gets promoted onward and upward- that’s a good sign for this program.
Other than being another sheep in the Mario Flock- Arroyo doesn’t really have any glaring cons. He has recruited Texas, Las Vegas and California. He’s called plays before, he’s coached a future NFL Pro Bowl QB (even if his play wasn’t spectacular all the time), and he brings more head coaching experience to the staff.
In the end, the game plans of Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 2020 Rose Bowl, and UNLV versus New Mexico in a random September game in 2022 are nearly identical. I just watched two 30 minute games I’ve embedded above for you, and well, they’re the same. I’ll get into deeper detail there at a later date. But, that is a concern.
What you saw at Oregon slogging its way to wins (7 of their 28 points against Wisconsin were on special teams) with Justin Herbert at QB. Even Herbert threw zero TD’s, an ugly interception, and had to run for three scores. As we all know, Tyler Van Dyke isn’t going to run for three scores unless they’re all QB wedge sneaks from the one yard line.
If you’re expecting a lightning fast, up tempo, super modern offense- you’re fooling yourself. Mario Cristobal doesn’t want that offense. He wants to win 28-27 with defensive turnovers, a blocked punt, and a heart attack finish.