A 10-3 record is hardly something to scoff at, but the 2013 season was a bit odd for Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys lost a head-scratcher to West Virginia in late September, then won seven straight, including a 49-17 rout over Baylor, before dropping two in a row against Oklahoma and Missouri.
The first season for offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich was "uneven" as well, according to Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman. The Cowboys went back and forth between quarterbacks Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh before finally settling on Chelf midseason. There was also a change at running back: Desmond Roland replaced Jeremy Smith for the Oct. 26 game against Iowa State and broke loose with 219 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, production was spotty. Chelf had bouts of inconsistency and Roland broke the 100-yard mark just once after Iowa State—a 144-yard performance in the Bedlam loss to the Sooners.
“Things weren't always gravy,” Yurcich told Mizell last month following the Cotton Bowl loss to Mizzou. “There's been some ups and downs. A testament to our seniors. A testament to our playmakers who continue to be team guys.”
Yurcich, a fast-rising assistant from Division II program Shippensburg, faces an intriguing Year 2 in 2014. Chelf departs, as do three of the team's top four wide receivers. Head coach Mike Gundy won't talk about the quarterback situation, but Walsh is the only one on the roster with significant playing experience.
That doesn't guarantee Walsh will start next season, but he is one of the more likely candidates. Can Yurcich (and Gundy) develop Walsh, or whoever starts, as a passer? As a redshirt sophomore, Walsh regressed, throwing for 1,333 yards, with nine touchdowns and five interceptions, after throwing for 1,564 yards, with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions, in 2012.
The ultimate success of the Cowboys offense may depend on his ability to bounce back.
Cowboys fans may cringe at the comparison, but Yurcich's situation brings to mind Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and quarterback Trevor Knight—albeit on a much smaller scale.
Huepel has taken more than his share of criticism through the years, especially as a play-caller. But the Sooners' Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, led by Knight's four passing touchdowns, was the culmination of what was quietly a nice coaching job.
The expectations for Oklahoma are high heading into the offseason, but the pressure for Heupel has eased a bit.
Yurcich's first year with Oklahoma State was shaky at times. However, if the Pokes'offense takes a step forward in '14—especially if Walsh progresses as a passer to complement his running ability—a lot of the criticism will die down.
If one season seems like a short time to judge Yurcich, it's probably because it is. But consider the success of his predecessors. Three of the four offensive coordinators at Oklahoma State before him—Larry Fedora, Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken—never stayed in Stillwater longer than three years before moving on to a head coaching gig.
Those are tough acts to follow for anyone.
It's also a credit to Gundy's coaching tree. Great coaches hire great assistants, and Gundy has rarely missed, so Yurcich is no slouch.
Which is why Year 2 is a prime opportunity for Yurcich to show his coaching mettle.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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