Don’t feel bad Kaytron Allen, you’re not the only one at Penn State getting snubbed. In a recent article discussing the top 15 quarterback developers in college, Penn State’s offensive coordinator/QB coach Mike Yurcich was completely disrespected when he didn’t even make the list. The level of bias towards Penn State knows no boundaries.
Who coached Jalen Hurts?
No fewer than three coaches in this list were credited with the development of the current Philadelphia Eagles signal caller. The article mentioned both Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian as helping with Hurt’s development in his time at Alabama, and then when Hurt’s transferred to Oklahoma, he flourished under Lincoln Riley.
Jalen is an incredible talent and I have no do whatsoever that he learned from each one of those men. But using him as an example for three different coaches seems a little excessive.
The System Makes the QB
Chip Kelly makes the list, largely in part because of his incredibly successful system that took athletic quarterbacks and had them producing video game numbers during his six seasons at Oregon. He was credited with developing Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, and of course Heisman Trophy-winning Marcus Mariota. Both Dixon and Mariota made the NFL, but Dixon threw 58 passes in three seasons (although he did get a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers) and Mariota is still in the league but has definitely failed to live up to his hype. Masoli is still playing in the CFL and Thomas bounced around a little up there and the Arena league.
Kelly attempted the NFL challenge on his own, and after two moderately triumphant seasons during which he gradually dismantled the team that Andy Reid had constructed over 14 years, he was dismissed following a disappointing 6-9 performance in his third season, not even getting the chance to finish the season. San Francisco took a chance on him but quickly came to rue that decision when he managed a dismal 2-14 record. This serves as a reminder that college offensive systems don’t always transition effectively to the NFL.
O.K., I admit, I know exactly who Bobby Petrino is, although I confess I didn’t know he coached at Arizona State when Jake “The Snake” Plummer was there. Yes, he did coach Lamar Jackson when he won the Heisman, and he even coached the late Ryan Mallet while he was at Arkansas, which oddly wasn’t acknowledged in the article. But does that qualify him to be listed in the 11th position? I don’t believe so.
The biggest grievance of them all
O.K., I’ll be the first to admit, my feelings toward Ohio State are similar to my hatred of liver and snakes. However, just as Wes Mantooth was telling Ron Burgundy when saving him from the pit of bears “I pure straight, straight hate you…but G*^####&t I respect you”, so goes my feelings towards the Buckeyes. I happen to think that Ryan Day is a good offensive mind that has overseen some good collegiate play. For example, in 2019, OSU’s QB Justin Fields also put up video game numbers. The funny thing is, guess who was the quarterback coach and passing game coordinator for that season? None other than Mike Yurcich. So, who do you think had a bigger hand in the success of that year?
Yurcich’s own resume
Besides the aforementioned job with Fields, he was the OC/QB for the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 2013-2018. During his time there, the Cowboys’ averaged scoring 38.0 points per game. Mason Rudolph, a 3-year starter, left the program as the undisputed passing leader in every statistical category, by wide margins. For his career, he threw for 13,618 yards with 92 TDs against 26 INTs.
After his one incredibly successful season in Colombus, Yurcich went down to Austin during the Covid season to be Texas’s OC/QB coach. Sam Ehlinger put up very solid numbers in a 10-game schedule, finishing the year with a 150.7 QB rating.
Perhaps the most validating example of Yurcich’s genius is what he accomplished while at Penn State. When Sean Clifford came to Happy Valley, he was a four-star recruit that much was hoped for. There were some glimpses of that talent, but for the most part, he was average his first two years as a starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions. In Yurcich’s first season as his play caller, Clifford experienced his best year-to-date, throwing for over 3,100 yards. During his senior season, while not as prolific in the yardage category (2,822 yards) every other metric increased, most drastically. His completion percentage jumped over 3 percentage points. He reduced his INTs, albeit only by one, while increasing his TD passes. His QB rating of 150.5 was the highest of his four years as a starter.
The knock against him was he could never win the big game. Yet, he was 2-2 against Michigan in his four seasons as the signal caller. Sadly, while he never did beat Ohio State, in his final two games against the Buckeyes he was 67-99 (67.7%) with four TDs and four INTs. Of course, those were the first two years of Yurchich’s calling plays.
Perhaps the most maligned quarterback ever at Penn State, he DID win the Cotton Bowl and the Rose Bowl, not to mention Rose Bowl MVP. While it remains to be seen what his pro career amounts to, the quarterback whose haters “guaranteed” wouldn’t play past college, not only got drafted but went in the fifth round.
So, while this list is a good start, without including Mike Yurcich, it is widely incomplete. From working with players that other coaches were credited with, to overseeing the development of two programs’ all-time leading passers, Yurchich’s body of work speaks for itself.
Nevertheless, I sense that in the upcoming years, his name will invariably come up whenever analysts discuss Drew Allar’s potential destination in the first round of the 2025 NFL Draft.