Despite a very difficult schedule, I predicted four months ago that Penn State will finish 9-3 this fall. The Nittany Lions have a lot of talent back on both sides of the ball, but honestly, the No. 1 reason for my optimism came down to one person.
New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.
I have a lot of faith Yurcich will bring a fast-paced, high-scoring offense that will give PSU a chance to win most every game.
And if he does? Well, that would be terrific for this year’s football team, which could have a chance to compete for a Big Ten East title.
But the Catch-22 with Yurcich — and this should be something everyone realized when James Franklin went out and got the hired gun coordinator — is that if he does the job everyone expects him to do, then he won’t be at Penn State very long.
Might he only last one year in Happy Valley?
Or two years?
That seems like the best-case scenario at this point. Because it’s hard to see Yurcich sticking around longer than two years.
If Yurcich is still PSU’s offensive coordinator in 2023, the biggest likelihood is that he will have underachieved with the Lions.
If Yurcich lives up to expectations this season and Penn State’s offense puts up huge numbers, there’s a good chance his name will come up for at least one and maybe even multiple quality head coaching jobs this winter.
And if not this year, that certainly could be the case after the 2022 season — again, as long as PSU’s offense is as productive as everyone believes it can be under Yurcich.
If Yurcich isn’t in high demand after this season or next, then something probably has gone wrong at Penn State.
That’s just the way things are going nowadays in college football. High-profile offensive coordinators will be highly sought after for lucrative jobs — and will get a chance to make lots of money.
Ah yes, they money part.
This is where things get interesting.
Yurcich made $1.7 million a year at Texas, his previous stop. That’s a lot of money for a coordinator, although it’s getting to be the going rate for top-level programs. Yurcich was the 10th highest paid assistant coach in the country with the Longhorns, who changed head coaches after the season.
His Penn State salary hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s safe to say Yurcich is in the ballpark of that amount he made at Texas.
For Yurcich to leave for another job, surely he would want more money than he’s already making. And for him to make a lot more than, say, $1.5 million or so, he likely would need to get a head coaching job with a major program — not a mid-major, where head coaching salaries still lag at some places.
Point is, Yurcich won’t be leaving Penn State for just any head coaching job. It will need to be the right head coaching job — at the right price.
The same can be said for PSU defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who is believed to be making in the $1.5 million range, as well. Pry could probably get a head coaching job right now if he wanted, but odds are it would be at a mid-major that may not pay him as much as he’s already making.
Penn State, therefore, benefits from Brent Pry staying because he has yet to get a better offer.
Could the same thing happen with Yurcich? Sure.
Then again, lots and lots of programs around the country want successful offensive coordinators, and the bigger programs will indeed be able to pay a lot to lure someone like Yurcich away.
Obviously, if we’re talking about Yurcich crushing it this season, we’re also talking about quarterback Sean Clifford having a big year. Is Clifford the right QB to be able to lead Yurcich’s system to big-time success? We’ll see. But that’s a separate discussion.
The guess here is Penn State’s offense will look really, really good at times this season, but also inconsistent, since Clifford himself has been inconsistent in his career.
Because of that, I believe Yurcich will need to stay at Penn State for two years in order to prove himself worthy of a high-profile head coaching job.
The bottom line is, if Yurcich does indeed earn a big-time head coaching job, then he will have accomplished some good things at Penn State in order to do so. That part will be fun to watch over the next year or two.