What a great 24 hours it’s been for Pitt. Last night’s win at the Pete electrified the fan base, and the icing on the cake was the hire of what is considered to be a very solid Offensive Coordinator.
Here is the article I wrote last night regarding Whipple:
Pitt has an Offensive Coordinator. In the space of ten days Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi fired and replaced Shawn Watson. The new coach, Mark Whipple is widely regarded by the fanbase as a solid hire. Certainly not a splash, but certainly better than Shawn Watson. According to one survey, a full two-thirds of Pitt fans approve. Another one-quarter had no idea who he is.
Whipple, who was the head coach at the University of Massachusetts until recently is widely regarded as a quartback guru. He should be near and dear to most Pittsburghers’ hearts because he was the first NFL coach to tutor Ben Roethlisberger. He’s also coached for the Browns (boo) and the Eagles (personal favorite of mine), and did a stint at Miami as their OC back in 2009-2010.
While Whipple has received mixed reviews from the Miami fanbase the conventional wisdom was that his quarterback talent was marginal (Jacory Harris anyone?), and Whipple still managed to coax 5000 yards per season out of the team. It should be pointed out that Miami’s 2010 yardage was outstanding at 5493 but scoring was lackluster at 26.3 points per game. Still, both figures would be an improvement at Pitt. For comparison’s sake, Pitt put up just about 3600 yards last season and 25.6 PPG.
The bottom line is that wherever Whipple has gone in the NCAA, yards and for the most part points have followed. Apparently it’s because he understands how to scheme receivers open.
The other thing you have to like as a Pitt fan is the fact that when given enough time to game plan, Whipple can score against good teams even while he has lesser talent at his disposal. Case in point:
Granted, UMass did also lay some eggs during the season, but the potential is certainly there.
One big question about Whipple is can he recruit? While he has not recently been in a position to recruit four and five star players at UMass, he did reel in his fair share of three-stars at a school that has no business reeling in three-stars. Additionally, he appears to be an excellent evaluator and developer of talent. First there is the professional recommendation from New England Sportswriter, Josh Walfish. He’s written an excellent article on Whipple, which I’ve excerpted below.
Regarding the development piece. I want to point out a couple of players on his 2018. First his leading receiver, 5’10” Andy Isabella. Isabella was a three star “athlete” from Ohio. Anybody want to guess how many receiving yards he posted in 2018? How about 1698. This is very nearly more than the entire Pitt receiving corps posted in 2018. Sure, but he was doing it against MAC level talent… Not exactly. Here’s Isabella’s 2018 game log.
I see a guy who either caught 10 balls, 100+ yards or a touchdown in every single game. And as an added bonus, there are a lot of SEC teams that didn’t have a guy go for 200+ vs the Dawgs.
Second if you look at UMass quarterback play, it’s pretty dang solid. Whipple used a three-quarterback system in 2018. I’m not sure if that was due to injuries or just a situation where he needed to keep everyone happy, or some other reason, but the results were good.
I’m curious and hopeful to see what Whipple can do with our stable of young arms. Davis Beville supporters will be out in force this spring, no doubt, and don’t sleep on RS Freshman Nick Patti, or Jeff George Jr. for that matter. Should be an interesting April.
Two big question marks in my mind are the running game (it doesn’t figure to be as prominent under Whipple as it was this year), and most importantly the offensive line. Does Whipple keep current OL coach Dave Borbley? I think the answer may be no, but if yes, can Whipple teach him to teach the guys how to pass block? It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks (and Borbley is an old dog…) but Whipple’s going to need to if he wants to throw the ball around.
As far as reeling in the big fish (i.e. four and five star talent) it remains to be seen what Whipple can do. Also it does not appear he has a lot of history recruiting Western Pennsylvania. (Yes I know that the title of this post is extremely misleading…but I just couldn’t pass it up). Regardless of Whipple’s ability to land four-star recruits, Pat Narduzzi has shown a propensity to land more three-star talent than four(much to the chagrin of many posters on this board, and Reed in particular). If you are going to survive on that type of strategy you better be able to identify the diamonds in the rough and coach them up. For the first time in a while, it looks like Pitt might actually have the right guy for the job.
Hail to Pitt
PS if you want to learn more about the new OC, you can tune into 93.7 the Fan on Tuesday at 9 a.m. I will be in meetings at that time, but I hope to catch the replay.