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A History of Mike Yurcich and Quarterbacks

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Mike Yurcich

Mike Yurcich’s short time at Penn State has been disappointing on the field. 

Yurcich came to Happy Valley as a respected offensive mind, but only five Big Ten teams scored fewer points than Penn State did in year one under Yurcich. 

In Yurcich’s tenure at Penn State, however, he’s shown that he can haul in some big-time talent in recruiting. 

Along with being the offensive coordinator, Yurcich is Penn State’s quarterbacks coach. In 2021, the Nittany Lions landed a five-star “second-coming” type in Drew Allar and one of the best prep players in Pennsylvania in Beau Pribula. Now, in April of 2022, Marcus Stokes, a four-star dual-threat from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, has committed to Penn State

Yurcich has been an NCAA quarterbacks coach since 2005 and an offensive/passing game coordinator   since 2006, coaching at six schools. Here is a look at what his past pupils have done.

2005-2010: EDINBORO (NCAA DIVISION II)

Yurcich spent six seasons at the DII level, becoming Edinburg’s QB coach in 2005 and offensive coordinator in 2006. 

His shining star in Edinboro was Trevor Harris, an All-American who set conference records for completions and completion percentage. Harris spent time on the practice squads of the Jacksonville Jaguares and Buffalo Bills before moving on to the CFL in 2012, where he currently still plays with the Montreal Alouettes. 

2011-12: SHIPPENSBURG (NCAA DIVISION II)

After Edinboro, Yurcich stayed in Pennsylvania and at the DII level, becoming Shippensburg’s quarterbacks coach and offensive cooridnator. 

In his Yurcich’s first season, quarterback Zach Zulli set records for passing touchdowns (34), completions (226) and threw for 2,741 passing yards, good for second-most in school history. 

Zulli went on to explode in year two under Yurcich. He set or tied the NCAA single-season record for passing touchdowns (54), total offensive touchdowns (56), touchdowns responsible for (57) and points accounted for (344) on his way to winning the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is essentially the DII version of the Heisman. 

Zulli’s success helped Yurcich jump from DII all the way to the Big 12. 

2013-2018: OKLAHOMA STATE

2013: Clint Chelf/J.W. Walsh

In Yurcich’s first season as an FBS quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State finished second in the Big 12 in scoring average at 39.1 points per game. 

The Cowboys used two quarterbacks throughout the season. Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh combined for 3,502 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 57 percent completion rate. 

If Chelf and Walsh combined to form one quarterback, that quarterback would have been second in the Big 12 in yards and touchdowns and fourth in completion percentage. 

Chelf and Walsh combined to put up solid numbers in 2013, but their statistics were down from the previous year before Yurcich arrived in Stillwater. 

In 2012, they combined for 28 touchdowns, just nine interceptions, and 3,132 yards with a 67 percent completion rate. 

2014: Daxx Garmann 

Not one of Yurcich’s success stories. 

Garmann, a three-star recruit, threw as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns in his only season as Oaklahoma State’s quarterback. Garmann completed just 54.9 percent of his passes and transferred to Maryland after the season. 

In Oklahoma State’s last three games, a different quarterback emerged, and it would be a preview of better years ahead for Yurcich and Oklahoma State.

2015-17: MASON RUDOLPH

With the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rudolph has been a polarizing figure who has drawn plenty of scorn. 

But nothing was polarizing about Rudolph’s college career because it was awesome. 

He broke several school records, including passing yards, all-purpose yards and total touchdowns. Rudolph was also an All-American and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2017. 

Yurcich and head coach Mike Gundy’s offense was a draw in Rudolph’s decision to pick Oklahoma State. 

“The awesome scheme they have out there is a great fit,” Rudolph told the Dallas Morning News the day after his commitment. “In terms of the system, even though it’s a freaking haul away, it is going to be a great opportunity for me to get in there early and learn the offense that I’ve been taught the past three years here.” 

It turned out to be a great fit, and at the moment, Rudolph is Yurcich’s biggest success story. Rudolph’s build (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and arm strength also compare with Penn State’s Drew Allar.

2018: Taylor Cornelius 

Cornelius didn’t quite match his predecessor. 

He threw for 3,978 yards, which was second only to a guy named Kyler Murray in the Big 12, and threw for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 59.4 percent of his passes. 

Cornelius did quite well for a walk-on, but his name isn’t nearly as recognizable as the quarterback Yurcich coached before him or the one he would coach after.

2019: OHIO STATE (PASSING GAME COORDINATOR/QUARTERBACKS COACH)

Justin Fields

After the 2018 season, Justin Fields transferred from Georgia to Ohio State. It was good timing for Yurcich, who also came to Columbus that year. The former five-star recruit and once-Penn State commit threw for an astounding 41 touchdowns and three interceptions in his lone season working with Yurcich. 

“He definitely connects with the players, just his experience being in college and how young he is,” Fields told Cleveland.com in February of 2019, “He gets us, you could say. He definitely is a great coach.”

Fields went on to thrive with Yurcich’s help and, two years later, became a millionaire when the Chicago Bears took him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. 

2020: TEXAS

Sam Ehlinger 

Ehlinger started at Texas for four years and only worked with Yurcich for the last one. 

Working with Ehlinger was one of the reasons Yurcich came to Austin.

His 60.2 completion percentage was the second-lowest of his career, but Ehlinger still turned in a respectable campaign, throwing for 2,566 yards, a 26 touchdowns (second in the Big 12), and just five interceptions in a pandemic-shortened 10-game season. His QB efficiency rating of 150.7 was the second-highest in the conference.

Despite a 7-3 record, Texas fired head coach Tom Herman after 2020, and Yurcich came to Penn State in January of 2021. 

2021-: PENN STATE

Sean Clifford

Both Clifford and his offensive coordinator were subjected to plenty of criticism this past season. Some deserved, some a little overboard. 

Clifford’s numbers (21 touchdowns, eight interceptions, a career-best 61 percent completion rate) were serviceable, but he didn’t leap forward in his first year under Yurcich like Penn State fans hoped in 2021.

Now, Clifford is back for year six in the Blue & White and year two with Yurcich. Whatever Clifford does will be a factor in what Penn State does in 2022 and how Yurcich is perceived.

Nothing Yurcich has done in the past can give us a full-proof gauge of how Drew Allar, Beau Pribula or Marcus Stokes will perform under his guidance. But whether it’s at the DII level or a power five school, Yurcich has proven that he can recruit and develop quarterbacks. He’s already done the first part at Penn State, and the second and most crucial part will play a significant role in how much happiness Yurcich brings to the valley.

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