Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal used three words to describe his team's culture: "Trust, belief and accountability." With Cristobal being at the helm for the start of fall camp for the second consecutive year, he’s looking to maintain and strengthen the culture throughout fall camp.
It was a thorough press conference for Cristobal, he spoke with very little pause for just about 27 minutes on Friday at Autzen Stadium, but the overwhelming takeaway was the goal to create an environment that fosters a winning locker room.
“Really pleased with, probably more than anything, the way that the culture continues to get stronger and better,” Cristobal said. “That word is not just a tagline here. Everything we do, and the way we do things, means something. Everything is important.”
What sets the 2019-20 rendition of Oregon football apart in that department is the continuity on both the coaching staff and the players. In previous years, the opportunity to build such a culture wasn’t even possible with new coaches, players and schemes coming in one season and heading out the next. For the first time since 2016, a Ducks head coach is returning for their second season. Important position coaches up and down the staff are also back, and they return 17 of 22 starters from a team that won nine games last season.
For Cristobal, at this stage of fall camp, these intricacies to the culture are the types of things that make or break a team. Without a strong foundation, X’s and O’s mean nothing.
“We emphasize discipline so much, it’s really become a way of life,” Cristobal said. “What I’m looking for is the little things. I’m looking for the way we get to meetings - are we prepared? I look at how early we get to certain meetings and certain parts of practice because it shows an eagerness and a readiness. I look at the way we run on and off the field.”
Cristobal believes the culture is strong and he believes it’s only going to get stronger. And for the first time in a long time, that culture is going to be tested early. Oregon opens the 2019 season in Arlington, Texas, in primetime, on national television, against a top-25 opponent in the Auburn Tigers. It’s the biggest opening game for the Ducks since they opened against No. 4 LSU in 2011 in that same building. He recognizes the magnitude of the game, but also recognizes the work that needs to be done before that game comes into focus.
“We all know it’s an incredible opportunity, any time you have a chance to play one of the best teams in the country on a big stage,” Cristobal said. “But we also know that you can’t skip steps one, two and three, which is camp.”
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