STILLWATER — When Mike Gundy wanted to overhaul the Oklahoma State offense three years ago, he hired a seasoned expert in the Air Raid spread system in Dana Holgorsen, who left Stillwater after one season to become the offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting at West Virginia.
To replace Holgorsen, Gundy hired an NFL assistant — and a former staff mate at OSU — in Todd Monken, who departed after two seasons for the head coaching job at Southern Miss.
This time, Gundy’s gone another route in finding his next offensive coordinator, bringing in a relative unknown who put up gaudy numbers at a lower-division school and has now gotten his big break.
OSU announced the hiring of Mike Yurcich Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after Gundy hinted at his Signing Day press conference that he was close to finalizing that move.
Yurcich spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at ShippensburgUniversity, a Division II school in Pennsylvania.
His other coaching jobs? Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/wide receivers coach at Division II’s EdinboroUniversity (Pennsylvania) from 2006-10. Offensive graduate assistant at Indiana from 2003-04. Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/running backs coach at the NAIA’s SaintFrancisUniversity (Indiana) from 1999-2002.
That lack of experience at the Football Bowl Subdivision level may make Yurcich an out-of-the-box choice. But his offensive philosophy does not.
At Shippensburg, he installed a pass-heavy system that led Division II in total offense (529.92 yards per game) and ranked in second in passing offense (387.69 yards per game) and scoring offense (46.85 points per game). Quarterback Zach Zulli won the Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman, after throwing for 4,747 yards and 54 touchdowns.
Gundy has long stressed that the Cowboys’ overall scheme would not change with a new coordinator, meaning he would hire someone who either has a background running that system (Holgorsen) or would be willing to learn and run it (Monken).
“Coach Yurcich has 14 years of experience coaching quarterbacks and a thorough background in the passing game,” Gundy said in a release. “He has been a very successful offensive coordinator for many years.
“He played quarterback and has been a student of the position as well as a student of offensive football for 14 years. He will be in place immediately to start getting prepared for spring football.”
Yurcich takes over an OSU offense that was still wildly productive in 2012, despite injuries causing the Cowboys to start three quarterbacks in Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf. The Cowboys ranked in the top 10 in the nation in total offense (547 yards per game), passing offense (331.69 yards per game) and scoring offense (45.69 points per game).
“Joining the program at OklahomaState is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family,” Yurcich said in a release. “I am excited to continue the offensive firepower that has been in place at OSU for many years. I’ve often admired the OSU system and I’m looking forward to learning and then teaching the OklahomaState offense.”
One early task for Yurcich, who will also be the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach, will be sorting out another spring derby at that position.
Gundy said following the Heart of Dallas Bowl that Chelf, who started the Cowboys’ final five games, would begin as the No. 1 quarterback. But Lunt, who won the starting job as a true freshman out of spring practice last year, and Walsh, who started three games and was the Big 12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year, will challenge for the job.