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Yurcich tabbed as new PSU OC

In this Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 photo, Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator, watches warm-ups before an NCAA college football game against Southeastern Louisiana in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

UNIVERSITY PARK — In a surprising offseason move, Penn State coach James Franklin announced the departure of offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and the hiring of Mike Yurcich as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Friday morning.

Yurcich, the offensive coordinator that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy famously found on the internet during a nation-wide search when the Shippensburg University offense was among the best in Division II football in 2012, comes to Penn State after most recently serving as the offensive coordinator at Texas this past season.

Ciarrocca departs after just one season at Penn State in which the Nittany Lions finished 40th in passing offense (256 yards per game), 55th in rushing offense (174.3 yards per game) and 107th in Red Zone offense. Quarterback Sean Clifford’s regression was substantial in 2020 and the Nittany Lions’ 4-5 record was a huge disappointment for a team expecting to be in contention for a Big Ten Championship.

“First, I would like to thank Kirk for his contributions to our program last year,” Franklin said in a statement released by Penn State Athletics. “This was a difficult decision, but felt it was best for our program to make a change. We wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”

Yurcich was the offensive coordinator for two seasons (2011-12) at Shippensburg University and immediately found success as the Red Raiders set numerous program records, including points scored, touchdowns and total offense.

In 2012, Shippensburg led all of Division II in total offense (529.2 yards per game) and was second in scoring offense (46.9 points per game) and passing yards per game (387.7). Under Yurcich’s direction, quarterback Zach Zulli won the 2012 Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Zulli tied the NCAA Division II record with 54 passing scores and led the Red Raiders to a 11-2 record and the second round of the playoffs.

Gundy found Yurcich’s numbers when looking for a coordinator but found it difficult to find tape on the Red Raiders’ offense. After calling the Shippensburg football office multiple times, Gundy finally was able to get an answer.

“You called the office and nobody answered,” Gundy told ESPN back in 2017. “It essentially was recordings, and I kept trying. Finally somebody answered -I don’t know who it was, maybe somebody who worked there and walked by and grabbed the phone – and they said, ‘He’s gone recruiting,’ or something. And I said, ‘Well, how do I run him down?'”

The rest from there was history, as Yurcich continued to run an up-tempo, high-powered spread offense that puts up points in bunches.

Yurcich enters with 22 years of college coaching experience, including 15 as an offensive coordinator. Yurcich, an Ohio native, served as the Ohio State passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2019, during which Justin Fields threw for 40 touchdowns with just three interceptions as the Buckeyes produced one of the best offenses in the country.

“We are excited to have Mike join our staff,” Franklin said. “He is an impressive offensive mind and talented play caller who has set records everywhere he has been as an offensive coordinator. I look forward to seeing what he can do with all of the offensive weapons we have here at Penn State. I have followed Mike’s career for a long time, dating back to his time in the PSAC at Shippensburg and Edinboro. We look forward to bringing Mike and his family back to Pennsylvania.”

This past season at Texas, the Longhorns ranked eighth in the FBS in scoring offense, averaging 42.7 points per game – which ranks second in Texas history. The Longhorns also averaged 475.4 yards per contest. Last season Sam Ehlinger led the high-flying offense with a Big-12 leading 25 TD passes in just 10 games.

As a Division I coordinator, Yurcich’s numbers are remarkable.

His offenses have averaged nearly 6.5 yards per play, which is the highest yards-per-play mark in the FBS dating back to 2013. Yurcich’s quarterbacks have averaged 14.03 yards per completion, which is the top mark among Power 5 offensive coordinators in that timeframe. Yurcich’s offenses have scored 50 or more points 26 times and 40 or more points 51 times dating back to 2013.

Yurcich has worked with multiple players who have found tons of success in college and have transitioned into the NFL. Yurcich worked most notably with Mason Rudolph and James Washington at Oklahoma State.

Rudolph was a 4,000-yard passer under Yurcich while Washington produced a 1,000-yard season and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver with the Cowboys. He also coached the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year in Tyreek Hill in 2014.

“I’d like to thank Head Coach James Franklin, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour and President Eric Barron for the opportunity to be the offensive coordinator at Penn State University,” Yurcich said. “Having spent 11 years in the state of Pennsylvania as a player and coach, I understand the significance of this duty and will represent properly and with humble pride.”

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