With the 2014 season on the brink, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is ready for his second year at the helm after coaching a powerful offensive squad a year ago.
Yurcich and most of the Cowboys’ coaching staff attended the annual media golf outing on Wednesday at Karsten Creek. He, along with the other assistant coaches, talked about the upcoming season.
“Every offense is going to be a little bit different from year to year, depending on the personnel,” Yurcich said. “I think you learn a little bit more about the players, because you’ve known them for a longer time. You know a little bit more about the coaches you work with because you’re around them a little bit longer. All of those things factor into one more year of experience.”
Head coach Mike Gundy is happy to have Yurcich back on staff this fall.
“Like any other coach or player, experience is invaluable and the comfort level of settling in and really understanding Oklahoma State's offense and the direction that we want to go,” Gundy said. “And we've taken pride in trying to develop an offense each year that fit what the strength would be of our quarterback play and also the ability we have to get the ball to players to make a play on the perimeter. So I would say that he's more comfortable and has adjusted to being and competing at this level.”
In 2013, Yurcich’s offense was a high-scoring machine, averaging 39.8 points per game as one of the nation’s best offenses. However, the Cowboys lost several key players from that squad, including four All-Big 12 players in Parker Graham, Clint Chelf, Kye Staley and Josh Stewart.
Yurcich and the Cowboys are preparing for the upcoming season without those players in a conference known for its offensive firepower. Yurcich begins his second season in NCAA Division I football with question marks, but he feels confident about the squad that will call Boone Pickens Stadium home this fall.
“Football is football,” Yurcich said. “The Big 12 is unique because of the spread offenses. The defensive coordinators in this league are really well versed and ahead of the curve in most of the spread game, even though it’s now being played almost everywhere.”
Yurcich’s 2013 offense ranked 14th nationally during the regular season. The Cowboys scored 40 or more points six times and 50 or more points four times.
In addition to racking up big point totals during Yurcich's first year, the Cowboys also ranked among the national elite in terms of ball security, leading the Big 12 and ranking 15th in the country by committing only 15 turnovers and leading the Big 12 and ranking third nationally by losing only four fumbles.
His first year resulted in OSU recording its sixth-best season in school history for scoring offense, the fifth-best season in school history for passing offense and the ninth-best season in school history for rushing touchdowns.
This year’s Cowboys team will try and duplicate or improve from last year’s successful campaign. The Cowboys will be young at wide receiver and a starting quarterback hasn’t been named, but Yurcich says he’s adjusting the offense a bit to fit personnel, like any coach does year to year.
“You just kind of recycle a bit,” Yurcich said. “We’re not going to morph into a totally new offense, but you have to play to your personnel strengths. Really time is going to tell on that – whether it’s through camp, week one or week two to see where your strengths are from a personnel standpoint, evaluating your strengths and then gearing your offense toward those. That’s an important part of the process.”
The Cowboys begin their season at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against defending national champion Florida State. Their progress during spring football gave Yurcich a promising glimpse at how successful his offense could be this fall.
“We do have some inexperience at some positions, but we do have a lot of guys who have been in the system and understand the system well,” Yurcich said. “That’s really important to becoming a smarter offense every day. Being organized and communicating is very important part of my job description.
“Those are the controllable things that we work really hard on during a day-to-day basis. We have a lot of talent around and our players really enjoy playing the game of football. They come to practice with an excitement and with a great effort level. With that, you’re going to get great results.”