Penn State’s new offensive coordinator, Mike Yurcich, was hired as offensive coordinator at Shippensburg in 2011. His only previous job in coaching was as an assistant at Edinboro.
His first offense at Ship set school records for points, touchdowns, total plays, first downs and total offense.
His second offense broke those records, led NCAA Division II in total offense and racked up 529 yards, 388 passing yards and 47 points per game.
Zach Zulli, the Red Raiders’ QB, won the Harlon Hill award, which amounts to the Division II Heisman Trophy.
After that season, Yurcich was hired as OC at Oklahoma State. Again: From Division II assistant to Big 12 coordinator in three years, or really two seasons.
After James Franklin fired John Donovan as Penn State’s offensive coordinator in December 2015, I wrote most of the above, speculating that Yurcich might be a guy to consider as Donovan’s replacement.
I tried to contact Yurcich for comment back then. An Oklahoma State spokesman responded that, “(Yurcich’s) voice in this story, of course, implies a connection to that opening. Thanks.”
Franklin instead hired Joe Moorhead, who was brilliant in the job for two years before leaving for a near-hopeless HC job (Mississippi State) with predictable results, and then landing as OC at Oregon.
Yurcich ran national top 10 offenses at Oklahoma State from 2013-18, and Ohio State in 2019, before moving to Texas, with ex-Ohio State OC Tom Herman, in 2020.
Over his time as an FBS offensive coordinator, his teams have led the country in yards per play.
Franklin has obviously had his eye on Yurcich. The coaching change in Texas (Herman out, Alabama OC Steve Sarkesian in) made Yurcich available. Sarkesian is reportedly keeping just one of Herman’s assistants and will himself call plays for the Longhorns. Alabama offensive line coach Kyle Flood will apparently be Texas’ new OC.
So, stunningly, Franklin pulled the trigger Friday, showing Kirk Ciarrocca the door after just one season.
"This was a difficult decision, but we felt it was best for our program to make a change,'' Franklin said via a Penn State news release, confirming what seems obvious, that the move wasn't Ciarrocca's choice.
Yurcich made $1.7 million at Texas in 2020, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports.
Franklin had four new coaches on his staff in 2020, including Ciarrocca. He has acknowledged, more than once, that this pandemic-ridden season was not a good time to be working through that level of change.
But Yurcich will be Penn State’s fourth OC (with Moorhead, Ricky Rahne and Ciarrocca) in five years.
The Nittany Lions finished 2020 third in the Big Ten Conference in scoring and second in total offense, despite finishing out of the national top 100 in turnovers, red-zone efficiency and sacks allowed.
They will return their top two quarterbacks (Sean Clifford and Will Levis) and considerable depth and talent at the offensive skill positions. The offense’s best player in 2020, WR Jahan Dotson, announced Thursday he was eschewing the NFL draft for another college season.