Ryan Day isn’t messing around. In his first full day as the Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach, he made quite a splash on Wednesday. Not on the recruiting trail, but on his coaching staff. Although Day must still make some decisions regarding certain coaches on his staff going forward, the head coach has already filled the spot vacated by himself on the offensive side of the ball. With his promotion opening up a spot on his staff, Day has added Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich as the Buckeyes’ passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The 43-year-old signed a two-year contract worth $950,000 annually.
“I am really excited to announce that Mike is joining the Ohio State staff,” Day said. “Mike is not only an Ohioan coming home, but he is also an extremely talented coach who has enjoyed success throughout his career. His Oklahoma State offenses have been among the most proficient in college football and I look forward to welcoming and introducing Mike and his family to our staff, players and community.”
For Yurcich, it’s been quite a quick rise in the coaching ranks. After playing football for Euclid high school, the quarterback played at the University of Mount Union before transferring to California University of Pennsylvania. Following his playing career, he was hired as an assistant at St. Francis (Indiana) for three years before becoming a graduate assistant at Indiana in 2003-04. Yurcich then was hired by Edinboro (Pennsylvania) and worked there from 2005-10.1 Then in 2011, he served as Shippenburg’s offensive coordinator for two years before he was hired by Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State in 2013, where he has been ever since.
Nominated for the Broyles Award in 2016 and 2017, which is presented to the nation’s top assistant coach, Yurcich’s offense and ability to develop quarterbacks has been well known in Stillwater and throughout college football. During his time with the Cowboys, his offense continued to improve.
Oklahoma State experienced one of its great offensive eras under Yurcich. They ranked fifth nationally in passing yards per game (315.9), 11th in touchdown passes (179), seventh in total yards (478.6) and sixth in scoring (38.0) throughout his six-year run. Of a possible 76 games, the Cowboys scored 40 or more points 35 times and put up 50 or more points 15 times. Featuring a 4,000-yard passer (Mason Rudolph), a 1,000-yard rusher (Justice Hill) and two 1,000-yard receivers (James Washington and Marcell Ateman), his offense flourished in 2017, leading the nation in passing (389.2 passing yards per game), were second in total offense (568.9), and fourth in scoring (45 points per game).
Here are total offense/passing offense/offensive S&P rankings for Mike Yurcich’s offense at Oklahoma State:
— Bill Landis (@BillLandis25) January 3, 2019
A native of Euclid, Ohio, Yurcich (surprisingly) grew up rooting for Michigan. Now, he won’t even be able to say that word, let alone be anywhere close to a fan of them.
“I watched Desmond Howard and Elvis Grbac and a lot of those guys play, and Michigan was a lot of fun because they threw it around a bit more than the Buckeyes did,” he told cleveland.com’s Doug Lesmerises in 2013.
A fun fact: Gundy found Yurcich on the internet and was enamored with the coach’s style offensively. From ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg in December 2017:
Gundy went online and looked up offenses that excelled both with rushing and passing numbers. He then narrowed the search to no-huddle, tempo-based offenses similar to Oklahoma State’s. Next, he found coordinators who also coached quarterbacks. The last step, the trickiest, was identifying lesser-known coaches who might stick around even after successful seasons.
Starting at the FBS level, Gundy worked his way to Shippensburg University, a Division II program in south central Pennsylvania. Under Yurcich, Shippensburg had led Division II in offense (529.2 yards per game) and ranked second in scoring (46.9 PPG) in 2012, a year after shattering team records for scoring and yards.
Gundy had numbers but no video, and tracking down the person who handled Shippensburg’s film wasn’t easy. “He was a fireman and [was] teaching class,” Gundy recalled. Oklahoma State eventually got three games sent its way as part of a film exchange, and Gundy liked what he saw.
The next challenge: finding Yurcich.
“You called the office and nobody answered,” Gundy said. “It essentially was recordings, and I kept trying. Finally somebody answered — I don’t know who it was, maybe somebody who worked there and walked by and grabbed the phone — and they said, ‘He’s gone recruiting,’ or something. And I said, ‘Well, how do I run him down?'”
Gundy finally connected with the Raiders’ offensive coordinator and arranged a meeting at a hotel near where he would be recruiting. On a cold, snowy day early in 2013, the two men met and talked ball for three hours. Gundy did some vetting, talking with Shippensburg coach Mark Maciejewski, but knew he had his man.
“That doesn’t happen every day,” Maciejewski said. “It was a unique situation and very fortunate for him. At first, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ But then, as time goes on, you sit back and you see there’s a reason [Gundy] wanted him.”
The next day, Gundy called.
“Mike, here’s the deal,” he told Yurcich. “I’m going to offer you the job, and I have a three-year contract that pays $400,000 a year.”
Silence. Three seconds, four, five, six … Gundy worried that Yurcich had been caught in a snowstorm.
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Well, do you need to talk to your wife?”
“I don’t need to talk to anybody.”
In hindsight, Gundy admits he didn’t appreciate what that moment meant to a coach making $52,500 a year who had played Division II ball, started coaching at the NAIA level and had spent just two years in the FBS, as a graduate assistant at Indiana. Gundy was offering the standard contract for an Oklahoma State offensive coordinator.
But Yurcich wasn’t the standard candidate.
“I wasn’t going to pay him less because he was from Shippensburg,” Gundy said, pronouncing the school Shippings Burg. “But I didn’t even think about, when I said it, he’s probably saying in his mind, ‘Holy s—, are you kidding me?’ Compared to what he had.”
Day was able to get Yurcich on his coaching staff, but it sure wasn’t easy. The Tennessee Volunteers reportedly offered him over $1 million annually but he took less money to come to Columbus. He and Day seem like a perfect match, we just have to wait and see if that proves to be the case on the field (and on the recruiting trail) going forward.
It remains unclear whether Day will continue to call plays on offense, but with Yurcich leading the passing attack and Kevin Wilson expected to lead the run game, the three-headed monster is one that Ohio State opponents should fear. Now, the group just has to prove that they can coexist together and maximize Ohio State’s offense going forward.