On Sunday, the Texas Longhorns announced the hire of Ohio State Buckeyes passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich as the team’s new offensive coordinator, turning Monday’s media availability ahead of Tuesday’s Alamo Bowl into an opportunity for head coach Tom Herman to discuss his latest hire.
More specifically, it was a chance for Herman to explain why Yurcich was his choice after seriously considering four five other candidates, including USC’s Graham Harrell and new Penn State offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. The search process took nearly a month after Herman opted to focus on landing defensive coordinator Chris Ash first since he was in high demand as an unemployed coach.
Yurcich’s rise through the coaching ranks started in earnest in 2013 when he was hired as the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator to replace Todd Monken, who accepted the head coaching job at Southern Miss. At that time, Yurcich wasn’t exactly a known quantity — Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy found him when researching productive Division II offenses.
Yurcich had just completed his second season as the offensive coordinator at Shippensburg, a small university in south-central Pennsylvania, leading the way in total offense and finishing second in scoring offense and passing offense.
During the next six seasons in Stillwater, Yurcich created a body of work that convinced Herman to make the hire.
“When you look at his resume, I think the year at Ohio State is kind of like the icing on the cake,” Herman said. “This is a guy that in his six years at Oklahoma State, you look at the numbers, they’re off the charts.”
Gundy has cycled through a number of offensive coordinators since taking over for Les Miles in Stillwater, but Yurcich was one of his best — Oklahoma State averaged 38 points per game and 478.3 yards per game during Yurcich’s time with the Cowboys. In those 76 games, the Pokes scored 40 or more points in 40.6 percent of their games, including 15 games of 50 or more points.
Four of the top six seasons for total offense in school history came under Yurcich, producing a 52-24 record, four 10-win seasons, and four bowl game victories.
Nationally, the Oklahoma State offenses ranked No. 5 in passing yards per game (315.9), No. 11 in touchdown passes (179), No. 7 in total yards (478.6), and No. 6 in scoring (38.0).
When Herman spoke with Gundy about his former offensive coordinator, what the Oklahoma State head coach had to say about Yurcich helped convince Herman to add Yurcich to his staff.
“According to Coach Gundy, who I spoke to, he said he’s an unbelievable play caller, very rhythmic, very detail-oriented in the way that he develops quarterbacks and offenses,” Herman said.
The most significant quarterback development under Yurcich was the rise of Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph — the South Carolina native left Stillwater as the school’s winningest quarterback with 54 school records. In 2017, Rudolph won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award after ranking in the top three in passing yards per completion, passing yards per attempt, total passing yards, passing yards per game, total offense, and total offense yards per play.
Flexibility and adaptability were also traits that caught Herman’s attention.
“The thing that really stood out to me was his ability each year to kind of play to the strengths of the personnel,” Herman said. “One year we’re going to be a run-heavy team, the next year we have a great quarterback, successful really good receivers, we’re going to be whatever, fourth in the country in passing.”
The statement from Herman raises questions about whether Yurcich will be more flexible than Herman has been in his three seasons at Texas, from the emphasis on using 11 personnel as the base grouping unless injuries force more receivers on the field to the reticence to throw the football all over the field when the running game isn’t working.
Getting true answers to those questions will take time, but Herman did answer one of the questions that FOX college football analyst Joel Klatt had about the Texas head coach finding an offensive coordinator with similar philosophical beliefs.
“I mean, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better fit in terms of similarities, the way that we believe in offensive football,” Herman said. “Yet a lengthy track record and resume of success on that side of the ball.”
On Friday, Herman made it clear that Yurcich will handle the play-calling duties that Herman assumed for the Texas Bowl in 2017 and has maintained ever since. He hopes the Alamo Bowl is the last time he’ll call plays to allow him to focus on running the Longhorns program.
“You never want to say never, but I hope so,” Herman said. “I know, I was a better head coach when I didn’t have that responsibility, and I owe it to this program to be the best version of me.”
Herman noted that some head coaches are comfortable calling plays, but he felt that it didn’t work for him.
“I know for me, you feel like you become a jack of all trades and master of none and I don’t ever want to rob Peter to pay Paul and diminish my ability as a head coach to try to be the best offensive play caller that I can be,” Herman said. “And so you never want to say never, but hopefully this will be the last time for a while.”