Offensive coordinators always face the interesting question of where they’ll be calling plays during games — either on the sideline alongside the players, or up in the press box where they can get a bird’s-eye view of the entire field.
New Penn State coordinator Mike Yurcich has done during his career, calling plays from the sideline and the booth at different times. He does have a preference, and so he will go with his preference calling plays for Penn State.
“I’ll be on the field,” Yurcich said.
“I think it’s important from a leadership standpoint to be able to rally the troops, so to speak,” Yurcich said, “and to be able to look (Sean Clifford) in the eye and be able to have a good conversation with him, as well as clear communication with any adjustments we need on the field. To be able to talk to each personnel grouping. To be able to talk to Coach Franklin.
“I just think the communication is very critical. At the same time, you have to good eyes up in the box and be able to trust them, which we do.”
To be clear, Yurcich believes an offense can have great success either way — whether the playcaller is up in the booth or on the field.
One might think it’s easier to be up in the booth, being able to see the entire field when calling plays. But, as Yurcich said, it’s not a cut and dried decision.
“If it was harder or easier one way on one way, I would err on that,” he said. “But I had tremendous success being up or down. Not too toot my own horn by any stretch of the imagination. It’s been fun, and I like both of them. Trusting the guys upstairs but also seeing it from the ground.”
Yurcich then noted one key aspect that doesn’t get talked about much with regards to being on the field.
“When you’re practicing or when you’re scrimmaging, those are thousands and thousands of reps and you’re calling it and you’re seeing it from the field,” he said. “So actually, when you’re practicing, you’ve got more practice reps from the field than when you do from up top.”
Yurcich listed several benefits of being on the sideline with the players.
“It’s emotion, and players can feed off emotion,” he said. “They can feed off your confidence and positivity, how you communicate and then you can calm them down, when you need to spark them up and those sorts of things. Just from an emotional standpoint it can be a significant boost.
“But then also, just from a standpoint of communicating, adjustments and that sort of thing, it’s more free flowing. Sometimes in college football you’ve got to get guys on the telephone or pass the headset to them, it’s less efficient in between series.”
The biggest key to calling plays from the sideline is having a clear and open communication system with the coaches up in the booth who are looking out over the entire field.
“It’s critical that we have consistent information from the box to the field,” Yurcich said. “And in the past, it’s always been good as long as the information is 100 percent. You do not want to transmit any information if there’s any uncertainty. But when you have expert guys in there with years of experience, those guys are used to seeing it. And when they say it’s a particular movement or coverage or stunt or blitz or alignment, that you’re trusting what they say.”