MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For some intel on the No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys and the no-name coordinator directing their offense, MetroNews turned to Kelly Hines and Jimmie Tramel beat writers for the Tulsa World:
Jimmie Tramel and Kelly Hines cover Oklahoma State athletics for the Tulsa World.
The pipeline of OSU play-callers now drawing a head coaching salary (Larry Fedora, Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken) is impressive. But be honest, when you first heard the name Mike Yurcich, did you have any clue who he was?
Hines: Definitely not, and I had to Google him up. When Mike Gundy announced the hire on Twitter, no one was exactly sure how to pronounce Yurcich’s name. And when the university sent out an email with the pronunciation, his first name was wrong on it. But he has adjusted and seems to be comfortable in his new job.
What’s been your impression of Yurcich (personally and schematically) so far?
Tramel: OSU has a history of hiring offensive coordinators who are—and I think this is a fair word—”characters” in their own way. Schematically, Yurcich was coincidentally watching tapes of OSU games long before he ever arrived because he liked the way the Cowboys played on offense. Like Todd Monken before him, he tweaked Holgorsen’s “old” offense and wants to go faster than ever. Personally, Yurcich seems humble and funny at the same time. He’s a former quarterback who named his sons after linebackers (Jack Lambert, Clay Matthews) because he thought it would help neutralize the “soft quarterback gene” he passed down to them. He puts them to sleep at night by singing the Neil Young song “Daddy Went Walking.” He’s competitive, as you would expect a coach to be, and he married a former All-America track and field athlete. While she was pregnant, he trained so he could finally beat her when they went running the first time after she gave birth. He got his lone victory. The best part about Saturday is he’s from a Cleveland suburb and his 71-year-old father will get to make the drive to Morgantown to watch him coach in an OSU game for the first time. Yurcich coaches in the press box, so his ability to throw a headset has yet to be evaluated.
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Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart has fallen off last season’s 100-catch pace.
West Virginia remembers how Josh Stewart blistered the Mountaineers last year on his way to a 100-catch season. Through three games this fall, he’s on pace for only 60 catches. How do you explain the dropoff?
Hines: Because of receiver injuries last year, Stewart kind of had to step up. Now, OSU almost has too many capable pass-catchers and not enough passes to go around. Stewart likely will get more thrown his way as the season goes on, although some of the up-and-coming guys (Marcell Ateman, Jhajuan Seales) may surprise opponents who are focused on trying to shut down Stewart. But Stewart playing with his high school QB and best bud J.W. Walsh certainly provides an unparalleled chemistry.
As productive as J.W. Walsh has been, it seems increasingly curious Mike Gundy chose Clint Chelf to start the opener and then yanked him after two scoreless series. Was that a miscalculation or do you think the staff did Chelf a courtesy because he’s a senior?
Tramel: That’s a curious deal and I don’t think Mike Gundy enjoys being forthright when talking about players who used to play his position, so we may never know the real deal. Here’s a best guess: Chelf was the feel-good story of last season. He went from third-team QB to MVP in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and seemed to be a guy teammates responded to favorably last season. Physically, Walsh (and I’m no talent scout) just seems to have more assets. It appears the OSU staff wanted to give Chelf a chance to continue to work his mojo. When the Cowboys got off to a slow start in the opener, the door was open for Walsh to step in and use his legs to make plays.
Those 504 yards UT-San Antonio compiled look awful gaudy, but they’re sort of misleading right?
Hines: Yes, because the first-team defense didn’t play much. Gundy said afterward he should have mixed and matched players instead of wholesale changing in the third quarter. OSU inserted its third-string defense, young guys who had never played together before and had a hard time finding their way. And I think UTSA started to get acclimated late in the game. That’s not a bad team.
Dating back to 2012, OSU has dropped three straight Big 12 road games; but the Cowboys weren’t three-touchdown favorites in any of those. Is there any trepidation among the fan base that OSU should be on upset alert this weekend?
Tramel: OSU progressed from bad road program to good road program under Gundy, but the Cowboys took a step backwards last season. Four of their five losses came on the road. The Cowboys went 1-3 in Big 12 road games and the lone victory was an “ugly” win at Kansas. Running back Jeremy Smith answered a question about road trips this week by saying Gundy once compared going on the road to the situations the Spartans faced in the movie “300.” Because West Virginia’s offense seems to have issues, I don’t think OSU’s fan base is on upset alert this week. But the Cowboys need to show they can handle the road better than they handled it in 2012.