As the era of Tim Beck as the offensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns closed, one of the biggest knocks on Beck was what seemed like an inability to consistently produce on the ground. Texas had flashes from talented running backs Keaontay Ingram and converted quarterback Roschon Johnson, but it never seemed to be enough to put the Longhorns over the top.
New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich comes to Texas directly from Ohio State, where he served as the passing game coordinator who groomed Justin Fields. However, the six seasons prior to that he spent as the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and his ground attacks were anything but inconsistent.
From 2013 to 2018, Oklahoma State ran 5,846 plays and 2,982 of them were running plays, a 51 percent pass-to-rush ratio over that span. In fact, 2015 was the only season of his tenure that dipped below 50 percent, which also coincided with Mason Rudolph’s first season as the full-time starter in his record-setting career.
The balance in Yurchich’s scheme isn’t just for balance’s sake, but to open up the passing game, creating a legitimate play-action threat and keeping defenders guessing. Three of the top five passing performances in Oklahoma State history came under Yurcich, including Mason Rudolph’s school-record 4,904 yards in 2017. In those four seasons, the Cowboys ran the ball 50.1, 51.4 and 51.2 percent of the time.
A big part of the offense’s success under Yurcich on the ground starts on first down. In four of his six seasons, the Cowboys averaged more than four yards per carry on first down, with 2014 and 2015 as the outliers. Those two also happen to be the worst two years rushing for Yurich and the Cowboys, featuring their two worst totals in yardage, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns. Even with the two down years included, Oklahoma State averaged 4.2 yards per carry on first down, including a whopping 5.4 first-down average in Yurcich’s final year with Oklahoma State.
For context, in the three years with Beck and head coach Tom Herman calling plays, Texas averaged 3.87 yards per carry on first downs.
You cannot have a conversation about rushing under Yurcich without mentioning the abundance of talent he had to work with, calling plays for Justice Hill, Chris Carson and Cuhuba Hubbard. Those three backs combined for 5,355 yards over four seasons under Yurcich, with Hill’s back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons accounting for 48.7 percent of that production.
The level of talent that Yurcich coaches at Texas may not be as developed as that group just yet, but the Longhorns have landed the top running back in the Big 12 in three consecutive seasons. With the success Yurcich found on the ground at Oklahoma State, it’s hard to think that a running back room featuring the talents of Ingram, Bijan Robinson, Jordan Whittington and potentially Derrian Brown would be anything other than successful.