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January 2, 2019 was Ryan Day’s first official day as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The first move he made as head coach was to elevate former Buckeye Brian Hartline to permanent wide receivers coach. The second move was to hire Mike Yurcich from Oklahoma State.
With Day calling plays and accomplished offensive mind Kevin Wilson as coordinator, Yurcich received the titles of passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Two days later on January 4, Justin Fields announced his transfer from Georgia to Ohio State.
Two fresh faces would walk into the quarterback room in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center when football activities resumed, but one, Chris Chugunov, had been a Buckeye quarterback for one season when Fields and Yurcich arrived.
In his role as PGC and QBs coach, Yurich wasn’t installing his own offense in Columbus. While teaching Fields, Chugunov, and the rest of the Buckeye QBs, Yurcich taught himself the Day offense.
“We clicked pretty fast and we all just worked,” Chugunov said January 17. “He picked up the offense super fast. He was quick to learn how we did things there.”
Yurcich had plenty of his own concepts learned from his time moving up to the Power 5 ranks. His prowess as coordinator at Division II Shippensburg caught the eye of Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. Gundy hired Yurcich to call his offense, a role he held from 2013 to 2018.
Even though he wasn’t calling plays or his own offense at Ohio State, much of what he had previously utilized on the field meshed with what Day wanted from that side of the ball. Chugunov said Yurcich added concepts Oklahoma State used during their stretch of four 10-win seasons in six years.
“As far as schematic-wise, I think he has a pretty aggressive mindset,” Chugunov said. “He wants to play fast-paced and attack the field vertically, more downfield, which is something I loved and I think excited a lot of players, too. I think that’s what he brings to the table.”
Ohio State’s 2019 offense had several big play threats, including Fields’ arm. He completed 67 percent of his passes for 3273 yards at 9.2 yards per attempt. Fields threw 41 touchdowns and had three interceptions over Ohio State’s 14-game season.
Chugunov had a front row seat for Fields’ season and saw him become more comfortable in a new offense over time, eventually landing in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Chugunov improved during his senior season, too. After two years as a backup at West Virginia under Dana Holgorsen, Chugunov posted the best numbers of his career in 2019. He played in nine games, threw six touchdowns and no interceptions, and completed a pass versus Michigan when Fields had to leave the field due to injury.
“I think Coach Yurcich did a good job of coaching us up on our mechanics and making sure all of that was in sync; our feet, arms, and eyes,” Chugunov said. “We spent hours and hours in the film room. He taught me a lot about defense and how we want to attack and stuff. He helped in a number of ways.”
Day, Wilson, and Yurcich produced a Heisman finalist, a Big 10 Champion, and a College Football Playoff participant this year. The on-field results from Buckeye quarterbacks speak volumes about the offensive coaching ability gathered in Columbus in 2019, but more goes into coaching than just producing on the field.
Coaches spend hours upon hours with their players in their meeting room. Yurcich got to know the players under the helmet, jersey, and pads.
“He was great,” Chugunov said. “We spent a lot of time with Coach Yurcich and his family. He was really open to us as a group. He invited us over to his house for holidays and sometimes just to hang out. I think everyone in the QB room developed a really great relationship with him.”
With Texas focusing on development in their coaching hires this offseason, building a relationship with players in order to facilitates that development is crucial. According to Chugunov, that should come easy to Yurcich.
“He was a good man on the field,” Chugunov said. “He was passionate and excited. Off the field, he was cool and easy to talk to. I think he was a great coach but also a really good dude, too.”
Header photo courtesy of MGoBlog