Yurcich to bring new attention to detail, football IQ to Forty Acres

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State University Athletics | Daily Texan Staff

When former Oklahoma State quarterback John Kolar first sat in a meeting room across from Mike Yurcich in 2015, all he could do was sit and stare at his blank notebook.

Kolar, then a freshman in Stillwater, Oklahoma, was dumbfounded by the football IQ of then-Cowboys offensive coordinator Yurcich.

“I literally felt like I was in the wrong classroom,” Kolar said. “It was a combination of the way he was talking about football, the language he was talking in … but also just the way he talked in the football language.”

Yurcich, who was named Texas’ offensive coordinator in Dec. 2019, was in just his third year with Oklahoma State after spending the first seven years of his coaching career at Division II schools.

Yet, he was already garnering recognition around the country for his fast-paced offenses and his development of quarterbacks — namely Mason Rudolph, who would go on to lead the Cowboys to a Top-20 finish in each of his final three years under center.

In Yurcich’s six-year tenure under head coach Mike Gundy, the Cowboy offense was prolific. They averaged at least 38 points per game and finished in the Top 20 in the country in scoring four times. 

Even in 2018, when Oklahoma State finished just 7–6, Yurcich’s offense was among the most dynamic in the country, and it showed against Texas, where an early onslaught gave the Cowboys a 38-35 win over the No. 6 Longhorns.

“I think being at Oklahoma State for six years and coaching in the Big 12, it gives you perspective on the enormity of what Texas football is,” Yurcich said in a press conference on Feb. 11.

For all six years, Yurcich worked under Gundy’s offensive mind, who gave high praise when Texas head coach Tom Herman came calling.

“Mike (Gundy) was very honest with me, and said (Yurcich is) one of, if not the best, he’s ever had,” Herman said in a press conference on Feb. 11.

But maybe Yurcich’s finest work came last year in Columbus, Ohio, with the Buckeyes. In his only season there, Yurcich took transfer quarterback Justin Fields and molded him into an uber-efficient machine under center. Fields threw 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions in a Hiesman-caliber season that saw the Buckeyes come up one play short of the National Championship game.

“His quarterback development speaks for itself,” Herman said. “The guy he coached just this past season was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and I think we all remember what the guys at Oklahoma State were able to do in his tenure there. That was a big part of me seeking (Yurcich) out to be honest, what he’s been able to do in developing quarterbacks.”

Now Yurcich will be tasked with having the same effect on a Texas quarterback in a very different position. Junior Sam Ehlinger is amongst the top returning players in the country, but led a Texas offense that looked stagnant in several big games in 2019.

“Sam is a hell of a player, and he’s a big part of why I chose this position,” Yurcich said. “He’s an experienced quarterback. He’s a proven winner.”

Now in an offseason full of uncertainty, it’s unclear when Yurcich will get to fully implement his system. What is clear is that he’ll inherit a veteran quarterback and a young group of dynamic playmakers to utilize in a scheme that Kolar describes simply as “aggressive.”

“His mindset was, ‘We’re going to make them stop us,’” Kolar said. “‘It doesn’t matter what they run. We’re going to attack, we’re going to attack, we’re going to attack, and they’re going to have to prove themselves in stopping us.’”

Yurcich’s most notable attribute, however, is his attention to detail. Kolar described him as “perfectionist in every area,” saying that there were times in the film room when they would watch a touchdown pass from the previous game, and Yurcich would still find a way to critique one small detail of the throw.

Yet the pursuit of perfection isn’t just a burden on his players. It’s a trickle-down effect from the ever-ascending standard to which he holds himself. 

“One of the things I respected the most about him, not only did he demand perfection from his players and his offense … but before he demanded from anyone else, he demanded from himself,” Kolar said. “That’s just how he is, and that’s what he’s had so much success. He’s never satisfied.”