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Rudel: Tracing the growth of Nittany Lions’ new offensive coordinator

Two local high school football coaches have first-hand experience with new Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.

R.J. Albarano roomed with him in the late 1990s while the two were on the football team at California (Pa.) University.

“He played QB for us at Cal,” Albarano, a longtime Hollidaysburg assistant and ex-Cal lineman, said. “Even at Cal, you could tell — most of the players took to Mike because he’s a good leader.”

Golden Tiger head coach Homer DeLattre met Yurcich when the latter was on the Edinboro staff (2005-10) as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

At the time, DeLattre was the head coach at Corry High School, a short drive from Edinboro.

“He was a few minutes away, and I’d spend a lot of time there at spring practice especially,” DeLattre said. “They scored a lot of points and had great offense. We got schemes and passing concepts, and our screen game is a lot from Edinboro when he was there.”

Yurcich (pronounced Yur-sich) helped develop Edinboro’s Trevor Harris, who broke most of the PSAC records before a long career in the Canadian Football League.

Shippensburg hired Yurcich as its offensive coordinator in 2011-12, and that led to his first big break after his offense led Division II (529.2 yards per game) and ranked second in scoring (46.9 ppg) in 2012.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy — you remember him, “I’m a man; I’m 40!” — discovered Yurcich after instructing his support staff to find the architect of the nation’s best offense over a few-year period. FBS (Division I) or FCS (Division II) didn’t matter.

After an interview, Gundy offered Yurcich $400,000 — or $350,000 more than he was making at Ship.

Yurcich’s prolific offensive numbers over six seasons at Oke State, with Mason Rudolph as quarterback, led him back to his native Ohio (Euclid) and a spot as passing game coordinator on Ryan Day’s staff in 2019.

Then as the money apparently kept getting too good to turn down, he was lured 2019 by Tom Herman to be offensive coordinator at Texas, where his salary was a reported $1.7 million.

After the Longhorns fired Herman earlier this month, Yurcich was available to James Franklin, who abruptly pulled the plug on Kirk Ciarrocca after just one season.

There’s no question Penn State’s quarterback play during this past season (4-5) was stunted as Sean Clifford took a step back against the more formidable part of the schedule, and Will Levis specialized only in fullback imitation.

On one hand, for Franklin to move on from Ciarrocca this quickly — in the midst of a pandemic, after no spring practice or face-to-face contact for months — is cruel. On the other hand, the results were what they were, and these aren’t the old days when the coaches made $25,000 and also taught a phys ed class.

This will be Yurcich’s fourth stop in four years, and, with success, he’ll be poised to entertain head-coaching offers for 2022.

“He’s a teacher, a great teacher of the game,” DeLattre said. “Great coaches are great teachers to get their point across to different styles of learning. He’s been good everywhere he’s been, and he’s going to be a great quarterback teacher.”

“If you ask me, they hit a gold mine with Mike,” Albarano said. “He’s succeeded everywhere he’s been. I’m shocked he hasn’t been hired as a head coach yet.”

Rudel can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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