Friday, February 01, 2019

Mike Yurcich’s former Euclid coaches know: Anywhere he goes, high-powered offense follows

Gallery: Euclid native Mike Yurcich named Ohio State's new passing game coordinator/quarterback coach
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No one is surprised that Mike Yurcich is a football coach.
As a player at Euclid High School, he always had the demeanor and the football IQ of someone who’d one day roam the sidelines. What’s surprising, however, is how quickly he’s risen through the coaching ranks.
It’s been exactly 20 years since his career began and he’s already built a reputation for coaching record-breaking offenses, most recently at Oklahoma State over the last six years.
Now he brings his style to Columbus as Ohio State’s passing-game coordinator under new head coach Ryan Day.
He’s found success at the college level much quicker than anyone expected him to -- especially his high school coaches Roy Pignatiello and Tom Banc.
“I think anybody would be,” Pignatiello said. “Mike got the opportunity and he was prepared for it.”
Yurcich is a 1994 graduate of Euclid High School, where he was a standout athlete in three sports. He earned seven varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball, but it was on the football field where he was one of the best players in the Greater Cleveland Conference. At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, he led the Panthers to a 20-3 record in two years as the starting quarterback under Banc. He graduated as the school’s all-time leader in career passing yards (2,209) and touchdowns (22). In 2009, he was inducted into the Euclid High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Though Yurcich would continue his playing career at Mount Union College and California (Pa.) University, Banc always knew he would eventually take the path of a coach. Even in high school, Yurcich displayed a football IQ that sometimes outshined his own coaches. He’d often complain that the Panthers didn’t throw the ball nearly as much as they should have. He still feels the same way today.
“I had some great running backs,” Banc said. “When he would come back to Euclid to recruit when he was in Pennsylvania, he told me that he wasn’t happy that we didn’t throw the ball. But now that he’s an offensive coordinator, he appreciates the running game.”
Yurcich’s coaching journey took him first to Division II Edinboro in 2005, where he began to build his reputation for prolific passing attacks. With Yurcich as the Fighting Scots' quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, the offense ranked second in the country and Edinboro made the playoffs in 2009. Edinboro lost in the second round but set a Division II single-game playoff record with 630 passing yards.
That game against West Liberty would set records for combined points (147) and yards (1,394) as Edinboro quarterback Trevor Harris -- now playing for Ottawa in the Canadian Football League -- completed 50 of 76 passes with five touchdowns.
Less than 15 years later, Yurcich returns to his home state as a key assistant for one of the country’s biggest college football programs.
“I think he’d still be coaching at Edinboro if nothing else had panned out,” Pignatiello joked. “That’s how much he loved it.”
Euclid has developed its fair share of Buckeyes, as well as nine NFL players. Robert Smith, the first player to twice win the Mr. Ohio Football award, is certainly the most famous. Yurcich is the first Panther to have the opportunity to coach in Columbus. Pignatiello admits it will be strange cheering for a coach. More than just wanting him to do well, he hopes that the players Yurcich coaches reach their potential.
“Any time you see that kind of success coming out of your community, your community is going to be proud,” Pignatiello said. “Mike is the first guy who’s gotten to this level of coaching, so it’s a little different. You’re not watching him, you’re watching what he’s put together.”
Pignatiello isn’t surprised. As a quarterback in high school, Yurcich’s role wasn’t much different than that of an experienced NFL quarterback. He was given play options and would choose one based off what he saw at the line of scrimmage.
More often than not he’d make the right decision.
“He was always a student of the game, and I gave him a lot of leeway (in high school), Pignatiello said. “I would give him a play and he had to go up to the line, read the defense and make a play call. Even back then, I could never remember a time when he misread it. In fact, I think he read it better than I did. He was always into that. He would sit down and go over coverages and recognize things, especially his senior year.”
Yurcich’s career so far has been defined by taking an under-the-radar quarterback and turning him into a high-caliber player. He is responsible for four of Oklahoma State’s 10 best offensive seasons in school history. Over a six-year span, the Cowboys averaged 38 points and 478.3 yards per game. They scored at least 40 points 35 times, 50 points 15 times and 60 points three times.
In 2018, he took Taylor Cornelius — who arrived in Stillwater, Okla., as a walk-on — and turned him into one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country statistically. Cornelius finished the 2018 season with 3,978 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.
In 2018, Urban Meyer and Day opened the Buckeyes' offense up with the help of an NFL-caliber quarterback in Dwayne Haskins. Not every quarterback who comes through Columbus during Day’s time will be as good as Haskins, but there is at least an understanding of what he wants from Ohio State’s offense:
Day wants a player with an NFL arm and an offensive coordinator unafraid to use it.
“At Oklahoma State, it was like a wide-open attack,” Banc said. "I know Day likes to throw the football, so Mike will fit in well with Day’s offensive philosophy.”
Everywhere he’s been, Yurcich has led an offense that has broken records. Now he’ll coach a level of quarterback talent he hasn’t previously experienced. When spring practice begins, former five-star recruit Justin Fields, a transfer from Georgia, will be the most talented quarterback Yurcich has ever coached.
“If a player like Fields is willing to listen to Mike, I think he’s only going to make him better,” Pignatiello said. “He’ll take that talent that he has and use it in the best way possible.”
“Everywhere he’s been his quarterbacks have set records. Whether it was at Division III, Division II or at Oklahoma State. So any quarterback that wants to listen to him is going to set records.”
Pignatiello and Banc once allowed Yurcich to have control over a Euclid offense as a teenager and it led to success. Mike Gundy did the same at Oklahoma State at got historic numbers in the return.
Now Day brings him to Columbus hoping for a similar result.

Mike Yurcich’s coaching timeline

·         1999: Saint Francis (IN) running backs coach
·         2000-01: Saint Francis (IN) quarterbacks coach
·         2002: Saint Francis (IN) offensive coordinator 
·         2003-04: Indiana graduate assistant
·         2005: Edinboro quarterbacks and wide receivers coach
·         2006-10: Edinboro offensive coordinator
·         2001-12: Shippensburg offensive coordinator
·         2013-18: Oklahoma State offensive coordinator
2019: Ohio State passing game coordinator

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