TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Not only is Alabama retooling its offensive line this offseason, the Crimson Tide is doing it with a new position coach.
Mario Cristobal is in his first year as the Tide's offensive line coach after five seasons as the head coach at Florida International and a few weeks at Miami earlier this year.
Cristobal's task is rebuilding arguably the team's most important unit.
Last season's offensive line was widely regarded as the best in the country under Jeff Stoutland, who left the Tide for the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Generally, the offensive line is the closest group on most teams. They spend more time with each other than other player groups and their individual success largely depends on the other four guys that make up the line. Coach Nick Saban said the players have embraced Cristobal.
"You always worry when you have a new coach about how they're going to respond, because the coach is a big part of that," Saban said. "That's been something that has been a real smooth transition for us. The players take to Mario very easily. He's very enthusiastic. I think he's a good teacher. He really works hard with each player and cares about the players. He does a very good job with recruiting as well. He's been a real positive. His energy and enthusiasm has been a very positive addition to our staff."
Ray Lewis, Herm Edwards speak to the team
Throughout preseason practice, Alabama brings in various speakers to give players different life lessons. Two speakers this week were former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards.
Saban said Lewis and Edwards were two of the best speakers the players could hope for.
"Both guys talked a lot about what it takes to be a man, but really that most things that you regret the most is if you don't take advantage of your gifts," Saban said.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley was able to get some one-on-one time with Lewis before his speech. Mosley, like a lot of football fans, idolized Lewis growing up. He said meeting the two-time Super Bowl champion was an eye-opening experience.
"Just the way he just was in his self every day, as far as on the field and off the field," Mosley said. "Just to see it off the field in person, you basically know what he's doing on the field, you can see his emotion, you can see his leadership off the field and how you affect other people. Just to be in the room with him and him still bringing the same passion, even though he's done with football, you can still tell if it wasn't for time he'd probably still be playing right now."
Saban didn't mention other speakers the Tide have schedule, but said he expects a consistent message players will hear and understand.
"A lot of these things are life lessons. They're not just about football," Saban said. "We're really always trying to educate our players on the consequences of good and bad behavior. Sometimes these outside folks do a really good job in terms of their presentation, but I also think when the players respect somebody and they say something, maybe it has a little more meaning.
"It's almost like being a parent. You tell your children many, many times not to do something and they fight you on it. And the Little League coach tells them not to do it, and they do it. Same deal."