- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Don't blame Mike Yurcich if he settles in for some down time this week, turns on The Discovery Channel's Shark Week and feels like he can relate.
After all, the Oklahoma State Cowboys offensive coordinator had to feel like he was thrown to the sharks during his debut campaign in the Big 12 after leaving Division II Shippensburg (Pa.) University to become main man at the helm of one of college football's most explosive offenses in 2013.
"If you think about it, he went from the local hometown newspaper to USA Today," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "It's a little different."
Different life. Different home. Different region of the country. Everything changed for Yurcich after Gundy's surprising decision to hire a coach with zero experience as an offensive coordinator at an FBS school.
Now, heading into his second season, it is Yurcich who has changed.
"He's taken control in practice," Gundy said. "He's involved in every step, in the huddle and coaching everybody on the field.
"He's just different now than he was."
Yurcich was aiming to keep his head above water in a lot of ways a year ago. Heading into the 2014 season, the Pokes' OC feels more prepared for the task at hand with a year of experience as a Big 12 offensive coordinator under his belt.
"Anytime you're able to look at defenses the second year, their schemes and look at your game plan from a year ago, now you have something to balance it with," Yurcich said. "When we were in 2013 and I'd look back at 2012, you're still looking at that defense, so you are, in essence, looking at it for a second time. But you weren't there, you didn't experience it. And I think that experience, the second time around, is invaluable."
It's not like Yurcich's debut season was a flop. As the Cowboys' offense grew into its identity, so did Yurcich. The Cowboys finished second in the Big 12 in points per game (39.1), third in yards per play (5.91) and first in red zone efficiency (75 percent) during his first season in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
"He did a good job last year," Gundy said. "We had a couple issues here and there that kept us from being as good as we needed to be, but with his presence we got better on offense. Games 4, 5, 6 he started to get a feel for exactly who we were. I think he grew with the team."
Now Yurcich feels like the offense is his. And the Cowboys' players can sense a new level of confidence and conviction in the words of the second-year OC.
"His confidence overall [has increased]," junior receiver David Glidden said. "Being able to take control of the offense and take control of what he wants done. Last year was more of a group effort as far as getting things done, he was obviously the top guy and running it, but this year there's a little more of a sense of control of what he wants to get done and accomplished."
Heading into preseason camp, Yurcich had a pair of goals for his offense.
"(First) becoming a smart offense, an intelligent offense," he said. "That's really about repetition and being organized on my end. As a coordinator I feel like that's my responsibility to make sure everybody is on the same page to know what we're doing and why we're doing it so there's a purpose behind it."
Another focus for Yurcich is laying the foundation for any success the Pokes' offense will have in 2014.
"[Secondly] having a great effort when we hit the field, having good attitudes and learning to practice with a purpose," he said. "We don't practice at 3:30 on a Tuesday because it's 3:30 on a Tuesday, we practice at 3:30 on a Tuesday because it's the next opportunity to get better. We understand that, we did last year and those things are the building blocks to understanding how important ball security is, to understanding what tempo means and when we go faster to play really fast without any hesitation.
"Those are the building blocks then you go from there."
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