Husker OC Mark Whipple aims to create offense to beat best Big Ten teams
When Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost decided to hand over some of his offensive play-calling responsibilities to a new offense coordinator, he said he needed someone he could trust. Mark Whipple, who most recently was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Pitt, was that man.
“If I am going to take a step back at all from coaching offense and calling plays, I wanted someone who has done it a lot, who was experienced, had done it at an elite level, who had coached at an elite level and that I felt like could go into a room and take over and be the face of the offense,” Frost said.
He added that he chose Whipple because of those things coupled with his “intelligence and personality.”
Whipple helped coach Pitt to be one of the fastest rising college football teams with Heisman finalist quarterback Kenny Pickett running Whipple’s offense. The Panthers won the 2021 ACC championship ending Clemson’s six championship win streak.
The Brown graduate (1979) has over 40 years of coaching experience and has coached on college football teams like Brown, Massachusetts, Miami, New Hampshire and more.
Whipple was the quarterback coach for the Steelers from 2004 to 2006, working with Ben Roethlisberger. He was an offensive assistant for Andy Reid and the quarterback coach for the Cleveland Browns in the early 2010s, coaching Colt McCoy in 2011.
As Nebraska’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Whipple will bring his years of experience and offensive intelligence to help revamp the Huskers’ offense and take some weight off of Frost’s shoulders when it comes to play-calling.
Whipple said the first time he met Frost was when Oregon lost to Auburn in the 2010 National Championship game. Frost was the wide receivers coach in 2010 and eventually became the offensive coordinator.
The two coaches will now combine their offensive experience with new wide receivers coach and associate head coach Mickey Joseph and offensive line coach Donovan Raiola.
“I said, “We're going to work together,” Whipple said of him and Frost. “This is collaborative, this is like, "You’re a smart guy, you've had a lot of success, been the number one offense at Oregon, what you did at UCF, I like that a lot."
Frost and Whipple have run different styles of offense in the past and will mesh those philosophies at Nebraska.
The offensive coordinator said he wants to do the opposite of what the defense thinks but also quoted Russ Grimm, the Steelers offensive line coach when Whipple was on staff.
“Russ Grimm said it best, "Good teams run the ball when the defense knows they're going to run," so that's in my DNA, and that always has been,” Whipple said. “I also go back to what I said first, I want to do what the defense doesn't think I'm going to do and that's what it is and those things will come together.”
Whipple said his offensive game plan revolves around the quarterback, his abilities, strengths and preferences. With four-year starter Adrian Martinez transferring to Kansas State, the Huskers could pick up a transfer quarterback.
Nebraska has sophomore Logan Smothers, who led the offense against Iowa, and freshman Heinrich Haarberg, who had very limited playing time in 2021. The Huskers will likely look for a quarterback with experience in the portal.
“I have enough stuff, Scott has got enough stuff, so we want to give it to those guys so when a play comes in, they feel confident and they can exude that to the other 10 teammates on the field,” Whipple said. “There's a relationship that's built between the play-caller and the quarterback and the time that you spend afterward.”
Frost said after National Signing Day on Dec. 15, the three new offensive coaches and the head coach would nail down what Nebraska’s offense will look like in 2022.
“I cannot wait to get into a room with those guys and talk offense and figure out exactly what we are going to look like and what we are going to be,” Frost said on National Signing Day. “I have a lot of confidence that the marriage of those things is going to come together really well because there are some elite coaches and really smart guys in that room.”
Whipple said his philosophy has always been to build an offense that can beat the best teams in the conference.
“It's like, ‘Hey, to me, you build your offense to handle Michigan and Ohio State,’” he said. “When I was in the ACC, it was Clemson.”
Pitt took down Clemson 27-17 in 2021, putting up 464 total yards of offense and averaging 5.7 yards per play. Pickett went 25-of-39 for 302 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Whipple is carrying that mentality with him to Nebraska and the Big Ten.
He said: “I've always said you can't be the champ unless you beat the champ.”