Nebraska’s offensive coordinator gives his thoughts on the quarterbacks

New Nebraska offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mark Whipple made an appearance on the Husker Radio Network last night to answer various questions about the new scheme, preparations for the opener in Dublin, and the progress of the quarterback room. It was back in December when Scott Frost relinquished play-calling responsibility to hire Whipple, who had spent the last three years as the coordinator for the Pitt Panthers. Last season, he helped Pitt win the 2021 ACC title and led the team to a top ten ranking nationally in scoring offense, passing offense, and total offense. As the quarterback coach, he led Kenny Pickett to the 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and a first-team All-American selection.

Whipple has 40+ years of head and assistant coaching experience in both the college and professional ranks. The New York native has been a head coach at three different schools (New Haven 1988-93, Brown 1994-97, UMass 1998-2003, 2014-2018), amassing a 137-103 record and winning the 1993 Division 1-AA Championship (now the FCS division). Nebraska is the fifth offensive coordinator stop for Whipple as he has previously called plays at Union (1981-82), New Hampshire (1986-87), Miami (2009-2010), and Pittsburgh (2019-2021). He also won a Super Bowl as a quarterback coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Whipple is a pass-first play-caller known for building around his quarterback and adjusting his offense to best utilize the talent on the field instead of forcing players to fit into a specific scheme. He was one of two finalists for the position in Lincoln when Frost announced he would no longer call plays. Whipple beat out former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell who had just been released at USC. After missing out on the Husker job, Harrell ended up in West Virginia as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the Mountaineers.

During last night’s radio appearance, Whipple discussed the quarterback room headed into this season and gave a detailed analysis of each scholarship signal-caller. Scroll below to see his comments.

Casey Thompson

Nebraska quarterback Logan Smothers (8) rushes against Iowa during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

(AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

“He’s got experience. He started for a year and played really well when he was an underclassman in the bowl game. He knows more than the other guys because of experience and sees it. He understands… you know he’s had to learn the offense and the run game stuff, and now we’re focusing more on what the defenses are doing. Not necessarily Northwestern, but some of the other things. All of the first four groups, I kinda combine those guys and maybe some of the walkthroughs with a blitz pickup and understanding protections why we do certain things or sight adjustments. Which he hadn’t done before, but he’s done a really, really good job.”

“It’s a lot of… I think we said we have 88 different concepts in the pass game, which meant he maybe got two reps on some of them. So some of those we’ll go back and get to, and you got to see them against different coverages. And that’s beneficial with Coach Chin (Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander) and his defense. They’re playing multiple defenses. Fish does a great job on the back end. We see different coverages. We’re seeing off coverage. We’re seeing press coverage. We’re seeing some quarters. We’re seeing some zone and some man. So you like to see all those things, and I think that really helps our guys.”


Chubba Purdy

(AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

“I recruited Chubba when I got to Pitt, but it was a little late. He had been tied into some other schools, but I got to know him. I knew of his brother. I’d been to his high school a few times. I knew some of the high school coaches, and they really had a lot of nice things to say. I asked them would you take Brock, who’s had a great career, or would you take Chubba? They said Chubba’s more athletic, stronger arm, and it probably would be Chubba. He’s really grown.”

“Unfortunately, he got a foot problem early and tried to go in the spring for the first three days, and we had to back him off through the spring break. He got five practices at the end and has really made a tremendous jump in understanding the offense and understanding defense. It was the first spring game he’s ever played, and he did alright there. I think this offseason has been really beneficial for him all the way through. A lot more confident in what we’re doing and the questions he’s asking, he’s understanding, he’s seeing things on film. “Hey, what’s this, what’s that,” from the defenses… not our defense but Northwestern or Oklahoma or even North Dakota, those people.”

Logan Smothers

(AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

He’s really improved. He’s improved his footwork a lot from the beginning, in the pass game. He understands the run game, the formations, and those things. It wasn’t as difficult for him. He’s really only had to learn half the offense. The throw game. He’s taken leaps and bounds and had a really great week last week. He was disappointed, and even he said that he didn’t play very well in the spring game. He’s had some scrimmages and done a really good job in the two-minute. Understanding some of that part. He can run the ball on some of the option game that we’ll use, and he’s taken another step in asking questions when we go one on one and watch his tape, so I’m excited because he’s got experience. He knows what it’s like to be a starter, and that’s always a good thing.

Heinrich Haarberg

(AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

“He started off well and then kinda split his finger on his off-throwing hand. That really set him back. Not till the end did he really get his reps. He was getting some 7-on-7 reps but wasn’t getting any team (reps), so I’ve seen him take a step in this off-season now that he’s healthy. He had some good throws in the spring game, made a bad mistake at the end but understood the situation. But he’s taken another step, a big strong guy can make all the throws, and I really like where he’s headed… understanding protections is a big thing. Understanding the defenses more, that’s where he’s a little bit behind the other guys because he doesn’t have the experience, but he’s made some good throws.”

Richard Torres

© Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times, Corpus Christi Caller-Times via Imagn Content Services, LLC

“He tore his ACL in the fall, so he really wasn’t able to do much. After spring break got about 50 throws and really improved in understanding coverages. He’s got a strong arm. He’s one of the guys… probably the strongest arm. He can be a little late with the throw and still fit it in there, which some of the other guys can’t. I really like where he’s headed. He’s got five years left. He was stil in high school (in the fall of 2021). It’s a funny story, we were in workouts, and he wasn’t around, and I called him, and I was like, “Richard, where the hell are you?” He goes, “coach, I’m at my graduation.” I had forgotten that he was still in high school. So you have to remember when you look at his tape that this guy is seventeen and a really good kid, a sense of humor. I’m really excited about where he’s headed. He’s full go now.”

Didn’t fully embrace football till late in high school. Can you see that he’s still a baby, as far as football knowledge goes?

“He’s raw… with his footwork, he’s done a good job and marrying it with some of the routes which he hadn’t done in the past. He’s still learning. He just didn’t get the reps besides (the scout team). But he’s getting a lot of that work now. He’s got about 55 snaps with the team, which was good to see coverages and some of the mistakes that he made. He’s a work in progress, and I just have to remind myself how young he is.”

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