Yurcich Likes To Keep It Fast And Simple

Speaking on Monday with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich in preparation for a story in the next issue of Go Pokes Magazine we were hitting on just some pretty obvious topics, including calling the offense at Division II schools Shippensburg and Edinboro compared at Oklahoma State. At the conclusion, Yurcich addressed the topic of the increased speed of the game of football.

Right now, the Big 12 has the reputation of going fast, really fast. Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and now Texas, according to Mack Brown, uses spread and up tempo offenses without using huddles.

The SEC with its power football and defensive prowess and string of national championships has more teams and coaches that aren't real keen about speeding up. That list of coaches includes Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who has been quoted as saying the up-tempo style also creates some injury concerns. But those may not be his only concerns.

"It's obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we're averaging 49.5 points a game," Saban explained. "With people that do those kinds of things, more and more people are going to do it. I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?"

Early this summer the newest coach in the SEC, former Wisconsin head coach and now head man at Arkansas Bret Bielema, took a break from the SEC and Big 10 debate to side with Saban on slowing down college football's rapidly increasing tempo.

"Not to get on the coattails of some of the other coaches, there is a lot of truth that the way offensive philosophies are driven now, there's times where you can't get a defensive substitution in for 8-, 10-, 12-play drives," Bielema said. "That has an effect on safety of that student-athlete, especially the bigger defensive linemen, that is really real."

The Big 12 is prepared to take its case, if need be, to the court of public opinion before it would ever go before the rules committee.

In my conversation with Mike Yurcich, who likes the offense to go really fast and that is one of the reasons Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was so eager to hire him from Division II, had a pretty simple explanation about why going fast with up-tempo, spread offenses is simply part of the sport and the spirit of competition.

"You want to keep the sport pure and if you have your five buddies and I have my five buddies and we went in my backyard and played football and we were able to huddle real fast or line up in a bunch of formations and have hand signals then guess what you would have to do? You'd have to have signals and you'd have to communicate real fast and that sort of thing," Yurcich theorized.

"I don't think anybody in the backyard would be complaining that the neighborhood kids down the street are playing a little bit faster, you know. Really, it boils down to it's just playing ball. The referee spots the ball and it's ready to be snapped, then I think the one that lines up first is going to win the fight.

"What we are trying to do is play real fast and have a lot of fun. It is fun. Our fans enjoy it. Our players enjoy it. Instead of catching six balls a game now your "Z" (receiver) is catching nine balls a game. It just ups it and I've seen no problem with it. I think it is a lot of fun and makes it way more marketable I believe, as well."

Yurcich was asked about the Big 12 and the fact that the conference will be using an experimental eighth official this season in all Big 12 games. That official will be in the backfield opposite the referee and will have a primary responsibility of locating the ball at the end of the play, and spotting it as quickly as possible for the next play.

Obviously, Yurcich likes that idea.

"I think it will be fun to watch and fun to see," Yurcich said. "You know lessening his load and giving him that one primary responsibility will make it a lot better, not just for him but for the other officials so they can focus on their duties. Probably in the end you will see the game more efficiently officiated."

I think there is a commercial airing these days where an adult surrounded by kids asks, "would you rather be fast or slow?" The correct answer, if you trust the kids, is fast.

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