Mike Yurcich was hired by Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day in January to take over Day’s former position as the quarterbacks coach, as well as to serve as the passing game coordinator. Yurcich, a native of Euclid, Ohio, previously served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Oklahoma State’s pass-happy offense prior to the move to Columbus.
Day has maintained the quarterback depth chart is open for competition as the Buckeyes entered fall camp on Friday. Following Sunday’s practice, the third of camp, Yurcich and the quarterbacks spoke with the media about the progress that has been made since spring practice.
Yurcich acknowledged how early it is in camp when asked how he would assess the competition to date, but he said it was apparent the quarterbacks had been working during the summer, when the coaching staff has limited interaction with the team, to improve on their spring performances ahead of fall camp.
“I think we understand our schemes more,” he said of the progression. “Protections, progressions, defensive identifications, all the adjustments we have to make, there is so much to it. We have to cover it all, and once you cover it all, you have to go back, start again, and break it down even more … It’s all a matter of repetition.”
Asked about a timeline for naming a starter, and what will factor into that decision, Yurcich said once he is able to see his quarterbacks in live scrimmages and game simulations, he will have a better feel for when a starter may be announced.
“We’re trying to stay in the process as much as possible,” Yurcich said. “And with that, you don’t want to ride emotions high or get too low, you just take it as it comes to you, and you coach up what you have to coach up and try to make them better every practice.”
Yurcich said the key for his group is to string quality practices together, and he added the quarterbacks have turned in three good practices thus far.
During his opening press conference on Friday, Day said there is no set plan for naming a starter. Rather, he said the need is to get three quarterbacks game-ready because too many things can happen throughout the depth chart. The quarterback room has seen considerable overhaul since the end of the 2018 season. Tate Martell and Matt Baldwin transferred out of the program, and three transfers joined the program in Justin Fields (Georgia), Gunnar Hoak (Kentucky), and Jagger LaRoe (Texas A&M).
The trio joins Chris Chugunov, who, himself, transferred into the program from West Virginia ahead of last season, and Danny Vanatsky, who enters his true sophomore season. JP Andrade, a freshman from La Verne, California, will join the program later this month.
Fields is widely considered the favorite to land the starting gig. He joined the program this past winter with no shortage of hype and fanfare after a freshman season at Georgia in which he flashed the talent that made him one of the most sought after quarterback recruits ever, despite limited usage in the Georgia offense.
He flashed that talent again at times during an up-and-down performance during the Ohio State spring game in April, a performance that left plenty of room for improvement as spring practice wrapped up.
Fields said there were only a handful of days throughout the summer in which the quarterbacks didn’t put in extra time with their receivers following summer workouts. The results, he said, is a much better understanding and chemistry with his receivers in terms of route running and individual skillsets.
Asked about the growth and progress he has seen from Fields since spring practice, Yurcich said it has been “significant.”
As for the competition to become the next starting quarterback at Ohio State, Fields said he was told by Day when he transferred that the job would not be handed to him.
“We’re all trying to get that starting job, of course, but we’re just going to take it day by day and just try to improve every day as a team,” he said. “I don’t try to think about it as a battle. I’m not thinking, ‘I have to do better than this guy and this guy. I’m just focusing on us as a whole, us as an offense, and just trying to get better each and every day.”
Hoak, a Dublin Coffman graduate, is the newest face in the quarterback room, having announced his decision to leave Kentucky to head back to Columbus in late April. He said the tradition at Ohio State was the ultimate draw in his decision, despite knowing Fields had transferred two months prior and would have the advantage of participating in spring practice.
While he has had to learn the system in a hurry, Hoak is embracing the competition among the quarterbacks.
“You have to be confident, you have to come in and compete every day,” he said.
He went on to say, “I never have that mentality of giving up. So, you have to come out every practice and compete, show the coaching staff what you’ve got, show the team what you’ve got, go out there and do the best you can. The coaches will decide who the best guy is and we’ll roll with it.”
The Buckeyes will be off Monday before returning to the practice field on Tuesday. Media will be permitted to watch the entire practice, and Day is scheduled to meet with the media following practice.
Look for further coverage of Ohio State’s 2019 fall camp in upcoming editions of The Gazette.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.