Glenn Spencer vs. Mike Yurcich Again! The Two Former Gundy Coordinators Are Making This a Habit
STILLWATER -- For five seasons from the spring of 2013 through the bowl preparation for the 2017 Camping World Bowl, these two Oklahoma State coordinators would square off.
Glenn Spencer is a son of the South raised in Georgia and he played defensive tackle at Georgia Tech. Spencer came to Oklahoma State as a position coach in 2008 and then was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2013, the same year that Mike Gundy hired Midwestern native and Shippensburg State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to run the Cowboys offense.
If the COVID-19 pandemic allows for the start of the football season, these two former Gundy lieutenants will open the season matching X's and O's against each other for the second season in a row.
With closed practices so prevalent these days, fans don't get to see it, but some of the most charged up competition, especially between coaches, comes in spring football. Spencer had some advantage over Yurcich when he came in, but it didn't take Yurcich long to catch up.
"We had some good battles out there," Yurcich told me. "Glenn and I both had a lot of pride and so did our players, so practice would often get pretty noisy when we scrimmaged in the spring."
Fall camp is also good for some early battles between offense and defense installing and running their own stuff against each other before game prep kicks in. Then it is scout teams on the other imitating the next opponent.
I spoke with Spencer the other day where he was in Tampa helping to check in the freshman class for the University of South Florida Bulls. New USF head coach Jeff Scott hired Spencer directly after the veteran defensive coordinator coached Florida Atlantic to a 52-28 win over SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Spencer was the interim head coach for the Owls after Lane Kiffin left for Ole Miss. In fact, there was a push by FAU players for the administration to hire Spencer but they hired recently disposed Florida State head coach Willie Taggert instead.
Just before I spoke to Spencer I called Yurcich, who said he was driving through Utah on vacation with his wife, Julie, and their three kids.
"Tell Glenn hello and I'll see him in Austin," said Yurcich.
"That's nice, I was I was out there in Utah with him right now," Spencer replied.
Instead they will see each other as Yurcich mentioned in Austin, Texas
Yes, South Florida at Texas on Saturday, Sept. 5 and for the second season opener in a row, the two will be battling each other like the old spring practice scrimmages in Stillwater.
Last season it was in Columbis, Ohio as Spencer was making his FAU debut as defensive coordinator and Yurcich was back in his home state for his first game as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
"He's been with some good teams, teams with a lot of talent. I'm happy for him," Spencer said of Yurcich. "We had a disastrous first quarter, the kid's eyeballs were huge."
Ohio State scored 28 points in the first quarter of the 45-21 win by the Buckeyes. However after that, the Owls defense held them scoreless in the second quarter, a touchdown in the third, and 10 points in the fourth. Ohio State ran for 239-yards and they threw for 230-yards. That may sound like a lot, but 469-yards of total offense was pretty good. Only Wisconsin and Penn State held the Buckeyes to less.
"We settled down and played them great the rest of the game," Spencer said. "In fact, Mike paid us a huge compliment at the end of the season. He said our defense played them better than any Big Ten defense did all season. That was a huge compliment coming from somebody that I really respect in the business. I don't think he was trying to pump up my tires because we did play them really well.
Now Spencer and Yurcich prepare for their next season opening meetings with two teams they have seen little of. Texas barely got into spring practice and South Florida had one spring practice in helmets and shorts before the pandemic closed everything down. It's a good thing the two coaches really know each other and will focus on getting to know their teams leading into their next date at matching schemes.
"I'll be mixing his last year at Oklahoma State with what they did at Ohio State because I know he will take some of that," Spencer said. "But Robert, I could flip it and say the same thing to him. He knows me."
One exception, Spencer was pretty much a 4-3-4 defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State mixing in some three-man front and plenty of nickel in the secondary against all those air raid offenses in the Big 12. Spencer has now gone to a lot of 30 flow and mixing it with multiple looks.
In the game of chess, football version, there are always some unanticipated moves that come up.
"They've got tape and it's all on tape," Spencer said. "There are no secrets. Now. I'd like to know if they are going to run Sam (Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger) as much as they have in the past."
I'm pretty sure that Mike Yurcich won't be volunteering that information before Sept. 5. It will make for some interesting football viewing for Oklahoma State fans after the Cowboys hopefully open their season on Thursday before with Oregon State.