Pitt looks to Mark Whipple to turn around offense

Pat Narduzzi enters Year 5 at Pitt with his fourth offensive coordinator.

Mark Whipple takes the reins after Narduzzi fired Shawn Watson following the Panthers’ 14-13 Sun Bowl loss to Stanford, after which Narduzzi had said: “We have to call a better game.”

Whipple was on the market because he, himself, had just resigned as the head coach at UMass, seven months after signing a three-year contract extension.

UMass struggled mightily in Whipple’s second tenure, going 16-44 in five seasons, never winning more than four games, which it did in both 2017 and 2018.

Whipple served as an offensive assistant in the NFL with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cleveland, and also was the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami for a two-season run, at the end of the Randy Shannon era.

At Pitt, Whipple inherits an offense that returns its starting quarterback, Kenny Pickett, who was just 10th in the ACC in 2018 in passing yards per game (140.6) and passing efficiency (120.3), and was looked at by observers of the Pitt program as the piece holding up the offense.

The Panthers had a strong running game in 2018, with two running backs, Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, putting up 1,000-yard seasons, the first time that had happened in program history.

Whipple will need to retool the offensive line that carved out the holes for the backs to run through. Pitt loses four starters from its 2018 O-line.

He does have a weapon, in senior wideout Maurice Ffrench, a 5’11”, 190-pound speedster who had 35 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns through the air, and 164 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground, in 2018.

His potential to do more might show up better when looking at his stats as a kick returner. Ffrench averaged 27.4 yards per return and had two kick-return touchdowns in 2018.

Ffrench, after a spring working in Whipple’s new offense, is excited at what is to come in 2019.

“Coach Whipple is a mastermind. Every time I’m with him, I try to pick his brain. He been through a lot of football, he knows a lot,” Ffrench told reporters at last week’s ACC Kickoff.

“With us, he goes through everything, make sure that we know the details of a route, why we’re running this route, making sure we do it to full speed, full detail. We’re just taking that and going a hundred miles speed with it. We’re just trying to have a way better offense and come out stronger than we did last year,” Ffrench said.

Narduzzi said that with Whipple leading the offense, “I think we have a great chance to be successful.”

“I’m excited about him,” Narduzzi said. “I’ve coached against him in the past when he was at Brown and UMass. I was always as a defensive coordinator puzzled by what he did, how he did it. It fits in with what we want to do, pro style. I’m excited about what avenue we’re going down this season.”

Story by Chris Graham



augusta free press
augusta free press news

UVA Basketball Fans!

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25. The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe, and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018 through to the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

Dick Vitale on Team of Destiny: “This is a hoops story you will LOVE! Jerry and Chris capture the sensational and dramatic championship journey by Tony Bennett and his tenacious Cavalier team. UVA was Awesome Baby and so is this book!”

Ralph Sampson on Team of Destiny: “Jerry and Chris have lived and seen it all, even before my time. I highly recommend this book to every basketball fan across the globe. This story translates to all who know defeat and how to overcome it!”

Buy here.

AFP Business

As professional consultants, Augusta Free Press LLC provides clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia and beyond with marketing and PR solutions including website design, SEO, TV/radio, video work, branding and logos, social media and overall marketing campaign design and implementation. Augusta Free Press LLC was founded in 2002.

Web Design

Augusta Free Press has designed more than 800 websites for clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia. We take care of all facets of web design – visual design, layout design, content development and SEO. Short on staff? We’ll work with you to update your AFP-designed website in a timely manner or train your staff to make changes.

Marketing/Social Media Management

Augusta Free Press manages advertising campaigns for small- and medium-sized businesses across Virginia. You don’t need to hire a full-time marketing coordinator. Bring the experience of the Augusta Free Press team to work for you – for a fraction of the cost.

Graphic Design

Augusta Free Press will help you take your vision to the next level. From branding and logos to print materials, our team will work with you to develop products to showcase your business. From brochures and rack cards to full-color magazines or print/digital ads, we’ve got you covered.

Event Planning/Fundraising

Augusta Free Press will help you plan the best event for your organization. From an open house or anniversary to a 5K or Pay Per View, we can handle it all. Looking for training for your sales staff? We can help energize your employees or board. Need ideas to raise more money? Let us help you plan a successful event. Want to hold a news conference or need help with a press release? We can do that too.

Click here for more.