Well fans, we now have our Wide Receivers Coach officially in the fold, and by most accounts Chris Beatty is a good one.  He’s got a solid coaching resume and also boasts some very good recruiting credentials, which is exactly what this program needs.

Now we have three long months (until the spring game) to fantasize about what our offense will be. 

Rumor has it that Whipple likes to throw the ball.  Much has been made of that, but what should we expect really?  I went back to the well and asked Daily Hampton Gazette Umass Beat Writer Josh Walfish some in-depth questions about what we will probably see in 2019.  Josh was extremely gracious and gave me some great answers, so THANK YOU Josh.  Also I’d be remis not to credit Pittsburgh Sports Now’s Alan Saunders for the idea.  Saunders originally interviewed Walfish for one of the very first pieces published on Whipple, which I found to be excellent.

I’ve pasted the Josh Walfish interview below for your reading pleasure.  The “MM Notes” were added after the fact.  Enjoy…

Michaelangelo: Whipple has been whispered to be a Quarterback Whisperer, and Pitt is sorely in need of one.  Can you talk about little about how you’ve seen him develop quarterbacks over the last few years?

Josh Walfish:  The easiest way to describe how well Whipple has developed quarterbacks is to look at the fact three were pushed into action this year and all of them executed at a pretty high level for UMass.  Andrew Ford was a Virginia Tech signee who left after a coaching change and found mounds of success under Whipple.  He was the stereotypical pocket passer, who ended his career as one of UMass’ most prolific passers of all time, and made just one terrible throw the entire 2018 season.   His backup — or QB 1-B — Ross Comis was an elusive scrambler who refined his passing under Whipple’s tutelage.  There’s no doubt in my mind few coaches could have molded Comis into a decent passer like Whipple was able to do over five years with him.  And then of course there was Michael Curtis, who was pressed into actions due to a disastrous first half at FIU that featured both Comis and Ford getting hurt.  Curtis performed well enough in his one start against Charlotte that fans were begging for him to be named the team’s new quarterback.  He moved the offense with great efficiency against Charlotte and gave the Minutemen more remarkably stable play at the position.  That is no accident and the direct result of how well Whipple is able to develop quarterbacks.

MM NotesEach of these quarterbacks had at least three years in the system, so you have to like the long term prospects for the position.  It remains to be seen what Whipple can do in year one, but I am optimistic.

Michaelangelo:  UMass seemed to score points in bunches or not at all last year.  For example they put up 27 against UGA (good), but later in the season they put up 13 against Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern (bad).  What gives?

Josh Walfish:  I went back and was shocked to see UMass actually had the ball for 25 minutes against Georgia Southern because it seemed like the Minutemen never actually possessed the ball against the Eagles’ option attack.  Give credit to Georgia Southern’s defense for stepping up when the Minutemen had the ball, but the main reason the Minutemen didn’t score a lot is because they didn’t have many opportunities to score.  The Coastal Carolina game was an outlier and honestly the strangest game I watched UMass play this year.  The Minutemen threw for almost 400 yards and moved the ball well against the Chanticleers but could not punch it into the end zone for some reason early.  By the end of the game, the Minutemen gained yards in chunks but failed to convert on fourth down to sustain drives.  For the most part, UMass scored in bunches but couldn’t stop anybody, but Whipple doesn’t need to be concerned about defense anymore.

 

Michaelangelo:  How good is [1700 yard Wide Reciever] Andy Isabella, really?

Josh Walfish:  It depends upon your definition of good.  Isabella will never be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but he will make an impact as a slot guy in the pros.  He has great hands, he runs really clean routes and he’s faster most people who will try to cover him in man-to-man.  I’m not sure anyone expected Isabella to have the breakout season he had last year, but he was certainly on the league’s radar in July and August.  Isabella has all the tools on and off the field to be a successful pro, and I fully expect that’s exactly what he’ll do.

Michaelangelo:   Can you talk a little bit about the development of the offensive line under Whipple?  Good?  Bad?  Ugly?  This is a big source of concern for Pitt fans mostly due to the perception that we have recruited poorly in recent years.  Also our current offensive line coach (Dave Borbley) is a notoriously bad teacher-of-pass blocking.

Josh Walfish:  There is no doubt the offensive line was the weakness of Whipple’s offenses at UMass, and it wasn’t even a close race. The development of the line was really dependent on the position because the interior of the line was fairly good last year, but the two tackles were question marks at times. It got to a point where Whipple was calling designed rollouts to get his quarterback away from the pressure he knew was going to come from the edges. The offensive line woes also have contributed to some of the running issues the Minutemen have had under Whipple.

MM Notes: Ruh-roh

Michaelangelo:  Last year Andy Isabella registered as many receiving yards as Pitt’s entire receiving corps.  As a result we have no idea if we have anybody worth throwing to.  What kinds of receivers does Whipple tend to favor?

Josh Walfish:  The easy answer is the ones who can catch the ball.  He’s made stars out of big wideouts like Tajae Sharpe, small, speedy ones like Isabella and tight ends like Adam Breneman.  If you can run routes well and can catch the ball, you can have success in Whipple’s offense.  His passing game is based on having a variety of receivers who can do different things and force defenses to pick and choose what they want to take away.

MM NotesDid you say tight end?  I thought I heard you say tight end.
Michaelangelo:  In your experience will Whipple allow his Tight Ends to catch passes?  Have they run routes over the middle?

Josh Walfish:  Two words: Adam Breneman. Look at what Breneman did in 2017 for the Minutemen. Seriously, go look at the stats he compiled for UMass. If that doesn’t answer your question, I’m not sure what will.

MM Notes:  Breneman will be a contriversial figure on this message board, primarily because he originally enrolled at Penn State and then transferred to UMass after “the Scandal”.  Regardless of Breneman’s position on the Penn State Scandal you cannot deny his talent or his stats at Umass.  Breneman averaged 67 catches and nearly 800 yards in two seasons under Whipple.  

 

Michaelangelo:  What would you say is Whipple’s favorite play?

Josh Walfish:  The fans will tell you he’s a big fan of the draw play on second and long or third and long, which in fairness he did run a lot.  But I think his favorite play last year was a streak or a hitch-and-go with Isabella, and just watching as Isabella sprinted past everyone for long touchdown catches.

MM NotesNeed more of THAT in 2019.  Hail to Pitt!

 

 

 

 

97 thoughts on “Lethal Offense 3?

  1. MM — excellent job of giving us some insight into Coach Whipple’s offense approach.

    When you asked about Coach Whipples favorite play, I was so hoping the answer was going to be: “ Screen passes. He loves to call different variations of the screen pass!”

    Oh well, can’t have it all, I guess…

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great read! Love the pic!

    I am hoping that Whipple can make a big difference in the play of Kenny Pickett. I think he has the tools to do the job but just hasn’t truly clicked consistently.

    H2P!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. here is the Rivals recruiting profile of Adam Breneman when he signed on with PSU in 2013. Next to 5* Christian Hackenburg, he was the highest rated recruit in the sanction years, recruited by O’Brien

    https://n.rivals.com/content/prospects/2013/adam-breneman-30347

    Hackenburg flourished under then PSU O’Brian in his freshman year, and Breneman would win a starting TE job halfway thru. But he incurred a knee injury the following year (Franklin’s 1st year) and Hackenburg struggled. Both left the program after 2015 … hackenburg opted for NFL, Breneman went to UMass as a grad transfer

    Here are Breneman stats …. see how he flourished at UMass

    https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/adam-breneman-1.html

    I need to look up how UMass’ TE did in 2018
    .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looks like the TEs caught a lot of short passes in Coach Whipples’ offense — maybe the move-the-sticks type of approach we were missing at TE under Watson…

      Maybe TE Carrigan can work with his size — he’s a legit 6’7” — depends on whether he’s got good hands.

      Go Pitt.

      Like

  4. Great interview MM. Very insightful and it does give the Pitt POV die hards some hope that our offense might just be considerably more exciting in 2019. By the way does anyone want to give Narduzzi some very early credit for the hiring of both Whipple and Beatty? I do know it’s way too early to be handing out any stars to Narduzzi for these hires. But one can’t be too disappointed at this point I should imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Narduzzi needs to win with these hires before we give him too much love. Sure, he won the Coastal last season and finished with 3 thuds to end the season 7-7. That record falls on the HC – Duzz did the right things by replacing both the OC and WR coach, but when you break down the 7 losses, they are his and they all have “very bad” associated with them. UNC (wow, did the tar heels beat anyone else?), psuX (team seemed to give up on the coaches in the 2nd half), UCF (boatraced by a very good G6 team), ND (should a, would a, could a, but the conservative “turtle” O…), Miami (the no O game and the canes O looked really bad too), Clemson (looked really bad with 8 yards passing) and Stanford (really, we lost that game after totally dominating most stats, really, how does that happen? Oh yeah, SOP).

      These two hires do offer me hope for 2019 as a potential season ticket holder. The D should have the Duzz stamp all over it (pre-Pitt) and the O has some nice potential with Whipple and Beatty added to the mix. Kessler should continue to improve as a RS JR and the Aussie punter cshould start to change field possession as he showed me signs that he has the potential.

      But, as Huff III and I will agree on, HOPE is not a plan. Duzz now has a military guy in Bates running his D (the plan has been to stop the run first – with Bates I see signs that we can also stop the pass). His new guy on O is an ex-HC with a track record that tells me he will have an effective plan to move the ball and score often. Now we need the CEO to do his job – win football games with a bunch of high character, student-athletes.

      How long do I have to renew my seats before I lose them? Remember, we are talking Pitt football…

      Like

      1. Survived another year or his plan is taking hold and a bright future awaits?

        That’s what I’m sorting out…

        Very well done on all aspects with this article. Very thought provoking.

        Like

  5. I agree that hope is not a plan but it is also necessary to maintain some positive energy.
    That being said I renewed my season tickets and remain hopeful…
    Maestro, excellent article…love your graphics.

    Major, we corner the new coaches at the LOI event and get some answers. 😎

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sounds good, Fran.

      Maybe we need to explain to Coach Whipple that if the Pitt offense isn’t scoring beaucoup points, he will have to face “The Wrath of Scooter!” 😊

      Go Pitt.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the interview MM, good insight.

    I never thought Watson would be so bad. He rode the Teddy Bridgewater wave a long time.

    I am way more confident in Whipple. The bar is set low, he can’t be worse.

    Like

    1. The other thing you must realize is that Antonio Brown, Penguins, and Pitt BB are getting all the local attention now. And in 3 weeks, the Pirates will enter the picture

      Like

      1. Hooray! Can’t wait to hear about all of the exciting Pirates news from Bradenton! For as tortured as we have been as Pitt fans, what we’ve been through doesn’t hold a candle to what Nutting has done to us Pirates fans. Let’s see, we make a late season push to get above .500. We have what appears to be a very good starting rotation, a good nucleus of position players, and what do we do in the offseason? Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you Lonnie Chisendall!!! Who??? Fans staying away in droves, and this is what we get. Worse yet is the annual drivel coming out of Neal Huntington’s mouth which just insults our intelligence. Being a Pitt fan is Nirvana compared to being a Pirates fan.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. When the Whipple hire was announced, I said it LOOKS to be a “Win-Win!”

    1) Kenny Pickett gets a Quarterback Coach.

    2) Pitt Fans get REACQUAINTED with the term “Tight End.”

    Great job M.

    Like

    1. ? Stay tuned. Less than 2 weeks to go.

      But also note that the final commit of the last 2 years were 4-stars. (Ironically, the final commit of 3 years ago was 2-star Rashad Weaver)

      Like

  8. Oh, did I mention above that every other team in our division made efforts to improve themselves, including the lowly Reds? At this point I think the Battlin’ Bucs should take a peek at MajorMajors or UPittbaseball to play shortstop. Both would be an upgrade over what they have and could certainly provide “payroll flexibility”.

    Like

    1. missingwlat — UPittbaseball is your man. I’m too old by 50 years — about all I can still remember is you want to try to field the ball on the big hop or the short hop…😊

      Go Pitt.

      Like

  9. missingwlat, have you ever attended The Peach Festival? As an Allman Brothers fan, I would find it appealing … but if you are not fans of jam bands, then it’s not the place for you.

    Like

    1. The Peach Festival on Montage Mountain? No, have not attended. As I understand it, the mountain turns into a tent city and the smell of urine emanates halfway to Harrisburg. I love good music, but no thanks!

      Like

  10. Hoping we get a couple O-Tackles and a tight end from the transfer list. They would make the biggest difference to offensive success this year. As much as the new coaches can help, giving Pickett time in the pocket is essential.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The question is how many scholarship spots are still available right now. However there is the possibility that Narduzzi may want to open up additional spots after the spring practice concludes. And thereafter several are informed that there is little chance of them every taking the field at Heinz.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. So, I realize that transfers have become more common in recent years. But, what’s the story with what seems to be a mass exodus from Penn State and Virginia Tech? I saw someone say that the kids leaving PSU might be concerned about the recently recruited “stars” taking their spots. That seems strange to me. Does anyone have any insight? And, is Paris Ford staying or going?

    H2P

    Like

    1. I’m pretty sure that Ford tweeted just last week that this coming season will be his break-out year. Sure hope so

      It is true that PSU is continuing with the great recruiting (9th the last time I checked) but not sure if it’s the reason for most of the transfers.
      VT seems like a total mess. Just shows that you never know … Justin Fuente was considered by most as THE HIRE after going 10-3 and 9-3 his last 2 years at Memphis. Maybe he’ll turn things around, but there are certainly issues right now

      Like

      1. Depends on if he’s cleaning house or not but when your 20 td starting q.b transfers that seems like a bad sign

        Like

        1. Note that he already has 3 years in at VT. Kind of late to start housecleaning, and apparently it will involve players that he recruited himself

          Like

  12. Mike:

    Great artwork – I laughed
    Great interview
    Great use of Scooby Doo

    If we had all the same players on offense returning next year, I would expect an improvement from Whipple in both play calling and development of Pickett under his tutelage. I think overall offensive performance would improve.

    Unfortunately, there will be a lot of change in the starters and that is a bit of wild card. But I am more hopeful about the prospects for improvement with Whipple than I would have been if no changes were made.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Maybe VT is looking to shape a team that can finally compete with Pitt (jk). As for PSU, it seems like the days of stocking talent 2-3 deep are over in the land of wandering cows.

    As for the new OC/WR coaches, we will find out if the problem was the coaches or the coachees.

    KP has guts and some talent, but he needs an offense that he is comfortable with and capable of identifying his check-downs. He also needs to learn to step into the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. His accuracy is also questionable. Now that I list all of this I just talked myself into needing an open QB competition.

    As for WRs, can they learn and actually run routes other than “out patterns” and fades to the sideline and the occasional post pattern by French. The middle of the field never needed to be covered.

    As for TEs, the first catch by one will be an improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. BTW MM, you are doing a great job, thanks for all your effort. Absolutely no drop in the quality of the blog from the days when Reed was at the helm.

    I guess that we will never know what happened to some of the posters who used to be regulars, but frankly love the ones who have become more regular.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ^^ For some crazy reason your comment reminded me of this story….

      “In August 1968 Page invited Robert Plant and John Bonham to join his band, the New Yardbirds, for a September tour in Scandinavia. In October 1968 they took the name Led Zeppelin, which stemmed from a humorous conversation among several musicians about their chances of going down like a lead balloon.”

      Liked by 2 people

  15. PITT’s Darrin Hall invited to play in the Senior Bowl this Saturday at 2:00 PM. Read the invite is based on his performance in last weeks all-star bowl game… I always saw something in this young man…. Happy for him.

    Like

  16. On the transfers — think about it, what do PSU and VT have in common?

    Answer: Ugly uniforms. 😊

    Did anyone see the uniforms that VT wore in their bowl game? That clearly was the last straw.

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  17. The biggest wildcard has got to be the offensive line. if the offensive line is decent we have a chance to do good things,… else it’s going to be another long year . The problem is that I saw no real solid back ups from last year that can step right in. Let’s hope we get some transfers.

    Fran, I did see Heather ,..yes we are on a first name basis ;-), at the b-ball game. I shook her hand. She mentioned something about the restraining order, so I moved on to my seat next to JayZ.
    Avonte Maddox was about 6 seats to my left. Taller than I expected.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Richman — most excellent. Didn’t realize Avonte was there.

      Keep rubbin’ those elbows! (But better stick to the elbows…😊)

      Go Pitt.

      Like

  18. I’ve been surprised that some WRs haven’t transferred from Pitt. I mean the last couple seasons have been big-time frustrating for our WRs and TEs.

    I’m thinking of guys like Shocky, Michael Smith, Cameron O’Neil, and Butler-Jenkins. I’m hoping Coaches Whipple and Beatty can get these guys playing and making plays, though the seniors (Tipton, Mathews) will be good competition, and of course Mack and Ffrench will likely be starters.

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  19. wwb – I received an e-mail reply from Heather regarding my suggestion for the WR coach last week – Alvis Whitted from Colorado State who played at NC State and in the NFL.

    She informed me that Pitt hired Chris Beatty.

    I’m a much smarter man now…

    Like

    1. Haha. I’m in sales. It ebbs and flows so I’ve usually got 15 mins here and there during the day to jump on the phone and post. All the writing / main stuff happens at night though. That starsky and hutch pic for example…last night

      Like

        1. Haha. Don’t worry. Making the number always comes first. In March, June, Sept, Dec you’ll be hearing a lot less from MA

          Like

        2. Lol wbb I just realized you are probably telling me not to quit my day job (to be come a full time graphics designer).

          Like

  20. I can’t muster any enthusiasm for Whipple and Beatty unless/until . . . . . Borbely is gone. If he remains, his offensive line will crush all the work that Whipple and Beatty will have put in to resuscitate the passing game.
    Making that even more a likely outcome is the fact the offensive line will be composed of not one returning starter (unless Jimmy Morrissey is able to return).

    We are in dire need of an experienced, competent o-line coach. There is a good reason why Borbely was shoved into a non-coaching role his last year at Maryland: he couldn’t coach the o-line. My hope is that Narduzzi has given Whipple the authority to make any and all changes to the offensive coaching staff he deems necessary. As a passing-game coach, Whipple must have nightmares watching tapes of Pitt’s o-line last year.

    Like

  21. There were two 1000 yard backs with virtually no passing game running behind that OL last year. I don’t think we would have won the Coastal Division if Borberly wasn’t the OL coach last season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea but he’s entirely one dimensional. My hope is that whipple forces him to overindex in the pass blocking coaching to compensate for his tendencies

      Like

      1. I agree the one dimensional zone blocking scheme was good for the running game and poor for the passing game. As far as compensating for his tendencies, I’m not sure how much you can teach an “old dog” on changing his tendencies.

        Like

  22. I read constantly before the season how bad the O-line was going to be………… all things considered…. I don’t believe that is what happened. As jrn mentions, two 1,000 yard backs for the first time in PITT history with NO passing game.. Not 2 shabby. I also read that Dintino’s stock is rising..

    I truly hope this comment didn’t offend anyone, it’s never my intention.. ike

    Like

      1. Conner was a starting guard and playing backup center for the team. …. Far as I know he didn’t have much input in the passing offense.

        Like

  23. ike, I’m offended that you would think that anyone might be offended! ?? 🙂 On a side note, does anyone know what it cost to real Whipple in? I wonder if he got the $1 million that was offered to Canada. Has Canada landed anywhere yet?

    Like

  24. I don’t think Whipple’s market price is anything close to $1M. I believe I read he was making $600k as HC at UMass; I’m sure he is quite happy in that neighborhood.

    Canada did not get the Northern Illinois job. I assume he will be hired somewhere but for slightly less than $1.5M

    Like

  25. Thanks for the info, LastRow and wwb (by the way, just as there are no former marines there is no formerwwb) 🙂 . I don’t wish any ill will on Canada, but he would still be at Pitt knocking down $1 million per yr. if he had accepted that final Pitt offer. That 5 star transfer from USC probably figured he would be sitting a year at USC anyway. So he can sit at Texas as a transfer, learn the system, and still get 4 years.

    Like

  26. Dear Ike,

    Relative to your 1:09 blog, I reply: July 24,1973, Pittsburgh, PA., USA, Three Rivers Stadium- I attended Led Zeppelin’s concert where they performed their songs including “Whole Lotta Love” and “Stairway to Heaven.” But not their greatest song: “What is and what should never be.” At least that’s how I remember it.

    One year later, also at Three Rivers Stadium, I saw Eric Clapton, who had said bye bye to Cream. I still have my Dicesare & Rich Engler $11.00 ticket framed and hanging at my bar.

    Shift to sports: Three Rivers Stadium October 1971; as a Pitt sophomore engineering student I was one of 50 or 51,000 people to say that in the history of mankind, I attended the first World Series night game.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. I was 2 for 3 (watched the 1st WS night game on TV) … but I was one of the 6 million who attended the Immaculate Reception game.

    I was sitting in 1st base loge for Zepplein and will never forget at approx. 8:15, the centerfield wall opened, and 4 black limos drove in.

    Do you remember early in Clapton show when someone threw a package that was set on fire on stage and Slowhand let him have it? That incident was shown in Clapton’s “12 Bars” documentary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear formerlywwb,

      I remember fireworks being thrown on the stage and EC saying what he would do to the mother of whoever threw the fireworks. To this day I remember that making me very sad that all that transpired. The concert was the day after July 4th. To tell you how much of a musical fan I was of Clapton, I named my 3rd of 4 children after him (Eric, Pitt Pharmacy, class of 2013).

      forrmerlywwb, I DO remember the black limos driving through the crowd at the Led Zep concert.

      Like

  28. Hey Tony, I could have been at the same Zep concert but I think it was a few years later at 3 Rivers. Definitely at the Clapton cert though. No on the world series though. Here’s the song we missed and one of my all time favorites.

    Like

  29. Never saw Cream but saw Clapton probably 6 or 7 times. Best show I saw was at the Civic Arena in 92 (I think) Saw the Allmans about 10 times

    Like

  30. Lot’s to unfold coming into this next season. My biggest problem is that there is always a new coach and a new system being installed. Whether or not that’s a huge problem that I see remains to be seen, I just hope the coaching staff can settle into some sort of consistency at some point. The PITT football program has to relieve itself of this clown like juggling act.

    Like

  31. MM, great job. Love the picture. Let’s hope that Pitt can finally find some consistency in the coaching ranks and that it translates into better recruiting and more Ws during the season.

    I finally renewed my season tickets. I just can’t give up on them yet. H2P!

    Liked by 4 people

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