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Analysis: Evaluating Mark Whipple’s UMass Offense

Analysis: Evaluating Mark Whipple’s UMass Offense

Mark Whipple will be Pitt’s next offensive coordinator, according to multiple media reports. He spent the last five seasons as the head coach and offensive coordinator of the UMass Minutemen before resigning in November.

So what kind of offense is Pitt getting by brining on Whipple? Let’s take a look at the statistics.

In 2018, his offense was almost perfectly balanced, with an average of 34.3 passing attempts and 34.0 rushing attempts per game. They did seem to get the ball down field with some regularity. The Minutemen averaged 13.7 yards per completion, and did so despite not having a regular passer.

Seniors Ross Comis (122 of 194, 1,799 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Andrew Ford (115 of 177, 1,366 yards, nine touchdowns) split time. The Minutemen finished No. 14 in the country in passing yards. For comparison, Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett finished 2018 with 1,969 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The total adds up to a team that was in the mid-30s in the country in both total offense and scoring offense, which is a pretty solid feat for a 4-8 independent.

Whipple’s pattern of a balanced attack with more passing success seems to hold true through his years in Amherst. In 2017, the Minutemen averaged 37.3 passing attempts and 34.8 rushing attempt per game, but Ford threw for 2,924 yards while leading rusher Marquis Young had just 982 yards. The last Pitt quarterback to throw for 2,900 or more yards was Tom Savage in 2013.

Ford only played three seasons at UMass, but finished with 6,955 yards, which would be fourth all-time at Pitt.

It’s worth noting that Whipple’s UMass scheme wasn’t working with elite talent, either. Whipple’s recruiting classes ranked No. 120, 107, 86, 110, 108 and 135. He never recruited a four-star player.

Some of that obviously reflects negatively on Whipple’s ability as a recruiter, but under Narduzzi, Pitt’s offensive coordinators haven’t been relied on to do much outside of recruit the one or two quarterbacks Pitt takes per class.

Whipple has also been able to develop those players of lesser pedigree. UMass had two offensive players drafted into the NFL during Whipple’s tenure despite the lack of top-notch prospects and might have more coming in Ford and slot receiver Andy Isabella.

On the whole, it seems that Whipple’s offense at UMass was proficient at moving the ball down the field, mostly through the air, and did so without elite skill position talent to work with.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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