Mario's world

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Alabama sought a new offensive line coach to replace Jeff Stoutland, it wanted a coach who had similar characteristics. And why not? His lines were integral parts of back-to-back national championships during his two-year stint with the Crimson Tide.

Stoutland built what many considered to be the best offensive line in college football last season, and all five starters from that unit are likely to get drafted one day -- and at least three could go in the first round.

So how does a team replace a coach like Stoutland?

Enter Mario Cristobal. Nick Saban wanted a coach who wouldn't be overwhelmed with the task of rebuilding the offensive line, a coach who could handle the pressure at Alabama and a coach who could make a smooth transition both on and off the field.

The former Miami assistant coach faced a much more difficult situation when he accepted the top position at Florida International six years ago. If anything, Cristobal would seem up for the challenge.

"He's a go-getter," Hialeah (Fla.) High School offensive coordinator Dennis Marroquin said. "He means business, and he obviously knows the area down here in South Florida."

Stoutland previously recruited South Florida, and Cristobal will do the same. They also have other similarities. Both coached the Hurricanes before coming to Tuscaloosa, an advantage when it comes to recruiting the area, and both like really big offensive linemen.

Alabama's offensive line in 2012 ranged from 6-foot-3 to 6-6 and from 300 pounds to 330.

Since Cristobal took over in February, the Tide have offered close to 10 offensive line prospects. All the targets are at least 6-3, and the majority have weighed more than 300 pounds. The name might have changed, but the philosophy remains the same.

However, it could be their differences that pay the biggest dividends for Cristobal.

He has shown more energy on the practice field with his position group than they ever had with Stoutland, a trait that stands out to potential recruits.

"When I watched him during the practice, you can tell he knows what he's doing," said Jordan Sims (Homewood, Ala./Homewood), a top in-state recruit for 2014. "He coaches at a high intensity.

"I noticed that he actually does the drill with the offensive line. If they don't follow what he says, he'll hop in there and show them how it's done properly. He doesn't focus on one guy. He's going to look at every offensive lineman and tell them what they need to work on. I think he's a great coach."

Age, too, helps Cristobal see more eye-to-eye with his players and recruits. Cristobal is 42, while Stoutland is 51.

"Coach Cristobal is younger than Coach Stoutland, and you can just relate to him more," Sims said. "He seems more like a friend to you."

But ultimately, Cristobal's hire might have less to do with his age, technique or schemes and more with his ability to recruit in South Florida.

Stoutland spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Miami. That was his only stop in the Sunshine State. Cristobal was born in Miami, played high school football at Christopher Columbus High and won two national championships playing on the Hurricanes' offensive line. And besides three years at Rutgers, Cristobal has spent his entire coaching career in South Florida.

"Most of the people that Coach Saban used to send down had a good relationship with the guys in Florida, but because Cristobal grew up there, coached there and played there, I think that he'll create a stronger bond than they already have," said Nigel Dunn, a former coach in the Miami area.

And Saban is looking for a big haul in talent-rich South Florida. The area has close to 20 prospects on the ESPN Watch List for the 2014 class, including Alabama targets Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead), Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) and Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas).

"[The] 2014 and 2015 [classes are] super loaded right now," Marroquin said. "There's enough talent down here to go around the country. When you have a guy that's had the ability to be a good recruiter, he could go in and maybe not just get a couple, maybe some real good ones."

Junior athlete Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) might not be on the Watch List, but he's certainly on the Tide's radar. Cristobal recently offered, adding the Tide to a list that includes several SEC and ACC powers, as well as Ohio State and West Virginia.

Lammons, who has Alabama among his top six schools, knew who Cristobal was before the two ever had a phone call.

"I just knew he was a hard-working coach," said Lammons, who will visit Tuscaloosa in June for the Tide's summer camp. "He always wants the best out of his players, and my coach always told me the coaches that want the best out of their players are the best coaches to be around."

Cristobal, who will have to replace three starters from last season's line, will have a tough task matching what Stoutland did, at least in 2013. But check back in a little more than 10 months. The real mark of what could separate him from his predecessor will come when the ink dries on national signing day.