PITTSBURGH — When former UMass head coach Mark Whipple was introduced as Pitt’s new offensive coordinator for the 2019 season, every wide receiver on the team had pretty much the same thought: Is he going to throw the ball more?
“I went straight to ESPN and looked up the stats at UMass to see what they were working with, and right away I was excited,” senior receiver Aaron Mathews said after Tuesday’s practice.
During the 2018 season, under the direction of former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, Pitt only passed the ball 37.83 % of the time, while rushing the ball 62.17 % of the time.
On the other hand, UMass passed the ball 53.22% of the time last season, while rushing the ball 46.78% of the time.
Based on that usage Whipple will be bringing a balanced attack to the Pitt offense and there is expected to be much more of a passing game presence, which will not only bring joy to the Pitt receivers, but also to the fans, who have been wanting more than a one-dimensional offense.
“Coach Whipple, he just has a brilliant mind,” Pitt wide receiver Taysir Mack said. “He walks around all day thinking about different ways to get us open, different mismatches and putting us in the best way to be successful. He really cares about the guys and cares about winning and cares about getting the ball to talent. He made certain packages that exploits all of us receivers that will help us in the long run.”
Last year, Whipple’s star receiver Andy Isabella led all of college football in receiving yards. He totaled 1,698 receiving yards on 102 receptions for 13 touchdowns. For his career, Isabella recorded 231 receptions for 3,526 total receiving yards and 30 touchdowns.
The success Whipple had with Isabella at UMass has brought excitement and optimism to the Pitt receiver room for the 2019 season to see what they can do as a cohesive unit under the direction of Whipple. Fellow Pitt receiver Shocky-Jaques Louis did not even need to do much research to know how good of a hire this was for the Panthers’ receivers.
“I didn’t do too much research, I just heard he was Ben Roethlisberger’s old coach and I was like ok, this sounds like something good,” Jaques-Louis said.
Whipple is not the only addition to the offense that has the Pitt receivers excited. Receivers coach Chris Beatty was also added to the coaching staff in the offseason. In his 12 seasons as a college assistant, he’s put a number of receivers into the NFL. Mack believes that Beatty is someone who will help the receiving corps grow.
“He really changes our outlook on the game,” Mack said. “He made us become students of the game. We got to understand the plays more. We get to know what the defense is doing, and what the quarterback is thinking on certain plays and certain drops. We understand how much time we have on routes, certain leverages that we have to have. Every thing is down to the details, he’s a big details guy. It starts from us pushing in our chairs in the room. He’s on top of everything and it will help us in the long run.”
Mack and the rest of the Pitt receivers will look to rebound during the 2019 season under the new direction of Whipple and Beatty. With their offensive expertise, Pitt’s pass catchers have a right to be excited.