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…
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 Notes: Each 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 Notes: Need more of THAT in 2019. Hail to Pitt!