Midway through an interview with David Yost after practice last week, my phone rang twice. It was the Philadelphia Eagles’ media relations team with Chase Daniel, Yost’s former quarterback at Missouri.
Yost asked if it was Daniel on the line and if he could catch up with him briefly. I threw the phone on speaker and listened in.
“Chase. It’s Yost!” Oregon’s quarterback coach said enthusiastically.
The two talked for about a minute, and it was almost as if they were back on the field at Missouri, talking about small things with an instant rapport. Daniel later texted him that he was surprised to talk with Yost randomly after a Thursday practice.
Yost, who the Ducks hired in January, has been instrumental in helping Oregon’s true freshman quarterback Justin Herbert develop at the Division I level. Yost brings a wealth of experience and the ability to develop offensive leaders, something Daniel said dates back to their time together.
“He coaches to your strengths,” said Daniel, a Heisman Trophy finalist at Missouri. “Not a lot of quarterback coaches are willing to do that. They’re stuck in their ways. He has so many ways he can do it and motivate guys.”
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said he’s picked up on Yost’s ability to connect with former players, be it Daniel or others.
“Guys are always keeping in contact with him from a long way back,” he said. “It’s been the Blaine Gabberts, the Brad Smiths as much as it’s been the guy from Akron from way back when. All of those relationships are important.”
His track record with quarterbacks runs deep. He tutored Brad Smith, who became the first quarterback to throw for 8,000 yards and run for 4,000 in college. Smith went on to play wide receiver in the NFL for nine seasons. Yost also worked closely with Blaine Gabbert, who started this season for the San Francisco 49ers.
Yost, 46, escaped the spotlight after 12 years at Missouri, taking a job under Mike Leach at Washington State as the inside receivers coach. He moved to Pullman, Washington, in search of a respite from feeling burned out. He spent three years at WSU, but those closest to him knew he had an inkling to coach quarterbacks again.
“He had a good experience with [Leach],” former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said in a March interview with The Register-Guard, “but I knew Dave could not just coach wide receivers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but his passion is coaching quarterbacks.”
Now in Eugene, Yost feels like he’s found the perfect fit. With newcomer Justin Herbert, the two are working to take Oregon football back into the national conversation. Yost has arguably one of the nation’s top young quarterbacks in Herbert, who Yost said has an “it factor” on the field.
Away from the job, he’s found the right work-life balance. Oregon’s weekly schedule allows him to pick up his kids from school on Thursdays and Fridays. He’s always home for breakfast too. At some points this season, he said he’s had enough time on Saturday mornings before games to hang shelves in his garage.
Although he feels fortunate for a flexible schedule at Oregon, Yost said he enjoys a new challenge in working with the Ducks.
“When this opportunity opened up, it was really exciting that I would get to coach the quarterbacks at a school like Oregon,” Yost said.
He’s brought some traditions to Oregon that he adopted from Missouri. Since 2005, the Ducks have established a doughnut Friday tradition, but Yost has added his own touch for his players. Each Friday, he brings chocolate chip cookies his wife Carrie and three children make for the Ducks quarterbacks and holders. It’s not uncommon for the cookies to come with personalized messages from Yost’s kids, such as “Go Ducks” or “Good luck, Lockie.”
At Missouri, he brought pizza for Thursday walkthroughs and bags of candy on Friday evenings. Daniel has fond memories of his favorite candy from his days at Missouri: Jolly Rancher chews.
“It’s the little things with him,” Daniel said. “He’s so prepared that there’s so many things that could stand out.”
Those around him say he brings the same preparedness to the field. Offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, who has been on Oregon’s staff for 30 years, said he’s never had a quarterbacks coach who spends as much time reviewing protections.
“He’s a real detailed guy in that regard,” Greatwood said. “I appreciate that because we want to make sure that we’re on the right page. … I think it’s great any time you can bring someone in that has been indoctrinated in other systems.”
When Ducks quarterback Jeff Lockie first heard of Yost’s imminent hire, he turned to Google. He first found David Yost, the actor and producer. But after modifying his search, Lockie realized his new position coach boasted long blonde locks, which Yost said he’s had for years. He stands out on the recruiting trail with ease, and Daniel agreed. He said Yost’s hair first caught his eye when he visited his Dallas-area house on a recruiting trip more than a decade ago.
“It’s pretty much a running joke,” Lockie said. “You can give him a hard time about his hair whenever you want.”
Aside from his eccentric hairstyle, Yost has been praised for his attention to detail. He puts an emphasis on practice video and says Oregon’s quarterbacks can learn from every snap, whether it was productive or not.
“We watch every snap from practice video after every practice,” Yost said. “Sometimes you have to get through it fast for the time you have, but still, there’s something you can learn from it.”
Between the unconventional hair style, knack for recruiting and credentials mentoring quarterbacks, Yost stands out in the crowded Division I coaching field.
“I think he constantly sees positive,” Daniel said. “That’s one thing in this day in age that you don’t see a lot of. … He’s always building you up.”