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Mike Yurcich Embracing Tempo, Quarterback Development For Penn State’s Offense

It’s no secret that Penn State football’s offense was a disappointment in 2020.

Despite starting to hit its stride towards the end of the season, the group didn’t play up to standards for much of the shortened campaign, and, in many eyes, lacked creativity against overpowering defenses. With that, Kirk Ciarrocca was fired from his post as offensive coordinator after just one season with the Nittany Lions.

Enter Mike Yurcich. The offensive guru who’s had stops at Ohio State, Texas, and, most notably, Oklahoma State, was hired early last month and met with the media for the first time Tuesday afternoon.

The Euclid, Ohio native has found success at several of his stops in college football. He noted that’s he ready to use those experiences to help develop a high-powered, tempo-driven offense in Happy Valley.

“When you’re dealing with trying to run an offense that has tempo in it… it can harm you if you’re not careful and you don’t know what you’re doing,” Yurcich said. “But the things that are good about tempo are you try to minimize the amount of communication that the defense can have in between snaps.”

Yurich helped manage a fast-paced offense during his time at Texas last season and did so during six years at Oklahoma State. Over the course of his FBS career, his offenses have averaged 6.49 yards per play and 14.03 yards per completion.

The coordinator made a serious name for himself during his time with Mike Gundy and the Cowboys. He helped develop quarterback Mason Rudolph into a bonafide star, averaged 38 points and 478.3 yards of offense per game, and finished with 15 50-point games.

That first point is key for Penn State and Yurcich, considering Sean Clifford had a fairly down year after impressing in his first starting season in 2019.

“It’s always a challenge [developing quarterbacks], and you never want to think that you’ve figured it out,” Yurcich said. “What’s really important is that our eyes and feet have to be right. If you have those two things going for you on each play, then you give yourself a chance for success.”

There’s no doubt that Clifford didn’t play up to the potential he showed in 2019 this past season. He threw for nine interceptions in just nine games compared to seven in his first 12 games started.

With Will Levis and Micah Bowens both in the transfer portal, the Nittany Lions now have just two other scholarship quarterbacks in Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux. Yurcich didn’t speak on position battles or who has a leg up, but he did note that having Veilleux at spring practice will be key.

“For any quarterback coming in as a freshman, it’s nearly impossible to play without that spring experience,” Yurcich said. “For him to come in early, it gives him a really good chance to get a leg up and to learn the offense and be well-versed.

“That gives him a chance to compete in the fall for the backup position, or one snap away and can be a really good contributor for us, or being ‘the guy,'” Yurcich added.

No matter who is starting at quarterback for the Nittany Lions this fall, Yurcich mentioned minimizing turnovers, creating explosive plays, and finishing in the red zone as some of the biggest facets he wants to help the offense improve upon.

A lack of creativity was a common complaint of Penn State’s offense this past fall. We’re still months away from kickoff against Wisconsin, but Yurcich made it clear that he’s open to plenty of different philosophies, including a little power football (!).

“I love power football, it’s how I was raised,” Yurcich said. “There’s a time to go under center, I think it provides a lot of advantages. When you can turn back to the defense they don’t know where the ball is necessarily, so your play-action passes can increase…That fullback position also does have its advantages.”

While he may be willing to bring in changes that Nittany Lions fans haven’t seen in years on the offensive side of the ball, Yurcich is clearly chomping at the bit to get started.

“It’s not gonna be a Mike Yurcich offense, it’s gonna be a Penn State offense,” Yurcich said. “We want to be a physical offense, we want to be a smart offense, and we want to be a skilled offense.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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