Day, new assistant build working relationship

Rob Oller

One of Ohio State’s most successful coaches has a new assignment, but he still maintains an office nearby. His replacement, also successful, nonetheless will be watched closely by fans for signs of slippage.

Of course, we’re talking about … Ryan Day and Mike Yurcich.

What a relief. I count 36.78 billion stories to date that focused on the coaching transition from Urban Meyer to Day. I may have written 26.2 million of them myself.

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But not today. Instead of covering the same ground — don’t fret, we will revisit similar soil soon enough — we turn our attention to the Buckeyes’ change in quarterbacks coaches, from Day to Yurcich, a Euclid native who joined the staff in January after spending six seasons as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.

If you worry that Meyer will too often be looking over Day’s shoulder this season, what does that make the Day-Yurcich working relationship? Will Day be inside his replacement’s head? Whispering in his ear? Yurcich confirmed that Day will handle play-calling and work closely with the quarterbacks. It really is the Ryan Day show, but Yurcich is more than just a right-hand man.

“We’re going to coach those guys together,” Day said of the quarterbacks. “And then as time goes on and (Yurcich) understands our system — because we are going to keep our system our system — then he’ll kind of be able to run with it a little bit more and more.”

Or possibly pass with it? Yurcich worked in the Big 12, after all.

To allay fears, for now, Day did not bring Yurcich aboard to turn The OSU into That OSU. Part of the reason Yurcich left Stillwater — where his offenses ranked 45th, 76th, 26th, 12th, fifth and 15th from 2013 to '18 — was to learn from Day, whose offensive philosophy evolved from concepts developed by Meyer and UCLA coach Chip Kelly, who coached Day at New Hampshire.

A big chunk of that philosophy is that the running game must not bow to the passing game, a belief that intrigues Yurcich, who grew up on between-the-tackles football.

“You want to always constantly develop, but at the same time, not very too far from what you know — our proofs,” Yurcich said. “There are theories, and there’s proof. (Day) knows what the proofs are. And those are the staples of this offense.”

Makes sense. But there remains the issue of Yurcich operating in the shadow of a coach who is credited with helping turn Dwayne Haskins Jr. into the best passer at Ohio State. Will the Buckeyes enjoy similar success with Yurcich grooming expected starter Justin Fields?

“It’s a collective effort,” said Yurcich, who left his $800,000 salary on the prairie to come home for $950,000. “(Day) won’t offend me if he says something, just like if (assistant quarterbacks coach) Corey Dennis has something to say in our meeting room. It’s all three of us coaching the quarterbacks. I’m way over getting threatened and looking over shoulders.”

Cowboys coach Mike Gundy leaned heavily on Yurcich, who called the plays. How will Yurcich react to no longer doing so?

No big deal, he said with a shrug.

“To be in a position where I can coach quarterbacks, ask for advice, give my two cents and have an open discussion,” he said of his new role. “And nobody’s offended here. It’s like an institution of football learning.”

Day described Yurcich, 43, as “a huge asset” who fits exactly what he wants in a staff: low-ego collaborators.

“Typically, it’s either an older guy who wants to do it their way or somebody younger who doesn’t quite have the experience and enough to bring to the table,” Day said, explaining the challenges of finding the right coach. “I thought (Yurcich) was a perfect fit that way.”

It’s early. Keep an eye on this one. But, apparently, so far so good.


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