Penn State Football: deep dive inside the numbers on new OC Mike Yurcich

Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /
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Penn State Football made a shocking move earlier this month when they announced a coaching change of offensive coordinators after hiring Kirk Ciarroca just one year ago, replacing him with Mike Yurcich.

James Franklin and Penn State Football have attacked the offseason with an aggressive ad urgent mindset with transfer players, but also made a big change on the staff as well.

Former Texas offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is in at Penn State football, while Ciarrocca who was hired 12 months ago, is out.

The move comes as a surprise because Franklin worked quietly to make this happen, although as we learned from Franklin himself at last week’s press conference, Yurcich is the white whale he has been chasing for a few years now.

The head coach mentioned that he has been in contact with Yurcich over the years during his stops at Ohio State and Texas after leaving Oklahoma State, his first power five job.

Penn State’s offense under Ciarrocca last season was methodical and grinded out drives, eating clock.

It seems Franklin was not a fan, and felt the offense needed a “philosophical” change.

"“It’s going to be back to who we were the previous three or four years,” Franklin told reporters last week. “It’s going to be spread, it’s going to be tempo, there’s going to be an emphasis on explosive plays. Obviously we’re still working through all those types of things, but me and Mike have been talking for a long time, and we’re on the same page in what we want to do and how we want to do it. And Mike has lived in that world.”"

Based off Franklin’s comments, it is probably fair to assume he wanted Yurcich once former offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead left for the head coaching job at Mississippi State.

Penn State football promoted Ricky Rahne to that position, and after he left for the head job at Old Dominion, they hired Ciarrocca last offseason. If Yurcich would have come to Happy Valley back in 2018, neither of those guys probably ever get the job with the Nittany Lions.

Yurcich is an Ohio native but has done the tour of small Pennsylvania schools, coaching at Saint Francis, Edinboro, and Shippensburg. He also quarterbacked at California University of Pennsylvania during his college days.

Needless to say, Yurcich’s hiring embodies Franklin’s goal to “dominate the state,” in recruiting, which the Nittany Lions have struggled to do in recent cycles.

Yurcich was hired as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State after head coach Mike Gundy found him doing an online search for offensive minds within football. The hire certainly surprised many as Yurcich was relatively an unknown, however he stuck with the Cowboys for six years.

He then left to go work with Ryan Day and the Buckeyes, where he served as the passing game coordinator for Ohio State in 2019 before taking the offensive coordinator job at Texas in 2020. After the season, head coach Tom Herman was let go, and thus Yurcich was available and Franklin did not hesitate to pounce and get his guy.

With Yurcich now in the fold for Penn State football, lets take a look inside the numbers on his career and his stops along the way and how it might effect what the Nittany Lions offense might look like next fall:

Oklahoma State – Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach (2013-2018)

In Yurcich’s six season with Oklahoma State, the Cowboys averaged 38.7 points per game, and 479 yards per game.

Granted, the Big 12 conference is known for it’s lack of defense at times, and routinely plays high scoring offensive shootouts, however, those numbers are stellar. Year in and year out, the Cowboys had one of the best offenses in college football under Yurcich.

Some of Oklahoma State’s best years came with Mason Rudolph at the helm, where he started for three seasons at quarterback, from 2015-2017.

Rudolph is a true pocket passer, standing at six-foot-five and 235 pounds, and for Penn State football fans, current quarterback Sean Clifford does draw resemblance of him. Rudolph was not considered an elite talent, as he was eventually chosen in the third-round of the 2018 NFL Draft  by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For his career, Rudolph passed for over 13,000 yards and 92 touchdowns to only 26 interceptions at Oklahoma State.

Rudolph’s 26 interceptions is astounding when you consider he attempted 1,447 passes, meaning he was picked off on only 1.7% of his passes. By comparison, Clifford has been intercepted 16 times on 577 attempts, 2.7% of his passes.

Last week, Franklin talked about an offense that gets more people involved and spreads the ball around, and how that is a major plus for the program

Yurcich was a master of spreading the ball around during his time at Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys averaged over five players per year with 20 or more receptions for the season. By comparison, Penn State Football averaged 3.7 players per year with 20+ receptions, and the last two years, it was merely three.

That spread, air raid attack Yurcich brings to Happy Valley should mean big things for the Lions receiving core, especially guys like Lambert-Smith and Sullivan-Brown who were more third and fourth options last year.

More passes and more options built with a lot of pre snap motion should have whoever is behind center for Penn State Football spreading the ball around.

Oklahoma State also featured a star wide receiver in James Washington who caught 226 passes for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdown on Yurcich’s watch. Washington was another player who was not an elite talent, listed at five-foot-eleven and just over 200 pounds, you could draw comparisons to Jahan Dotson for Penn State football.

Dotson is also listed at five-foot-eleven, just under 200 pounds. Dotson broke out last year with a monster season leading the Big Ten in receiving in 2020. It will be interesting to see what the new look offense could do for Dotson and how it will maximize his skill set.