Two weeks ago, Husker head football coach Scott Frost named the final two members of his 2022 coaching staff: Bill Busch (special teams) and Bryan Applewhite (running backs). They join three other new Husker hires: Mark Whipple (offensive coordinator, Donovan Raiola (offensive line) and Mickey Joseph (associate head coach and receivers coach).
Those five coaches will join forces with the rest of the Husker staff that consists of Travis Fisher (defensive backs), Eric Chinander (defensive coordinator), Barrett Ruud (inside linebackers), Mike Dawson (outside linebackers and defensive line) and Sean Beckton (tight ends). This staff is saddled with the task of trying to rescue a Husker football program that has been in a nose dive for at least the past five years.
Let's look at the new Husker offensive coordinator from the Pittsburgh Panthers:
What stands out the most about Whipple is how he helped improve Pitt's offense in his three years there (2019-'21).
His first year (2019), the Panthers had 954 offensive plays for a total of 4,946 yards and a 5.18 per play average. Pitt also went 8-5 and scored 28 TDs that year.
In 2020 (a COVID year) the Panthers had 814 offensive plays for 4,176 yards for about the same per play average. That year, Pitt went 6-5 and scored 34 TDs.
And last year, the Panthers went 11-3, losing to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl. So what were the offensive numbers in 2021? The Panthers had 1,069 offensive plays for a total of 6,812 yards. And unbelievably, Pitt scored 70 TDs!
I know those numbers weren't put up against B1G foes. I get that. But Pitt played a decent schedule that included Clemson, Tennessee, Miami (FL), North Carolina and Michigan State.
And Mark Whipple's development of QB Kenny Pickett is noteworthy, too. He played for the Panthers from 2017-2021. In 2017, Pickett played in just four games, completing 59.1% of his passes. The next year (2018), he saw action in 14 games with a completion rate of 58.1%.
In 2019 (Whipple's first year at Pitt), Pickett played in 12 games for a 61.6% completion average. In 2020 (COVID year), he appeared in nine games with a 61.1% completion rate. And last year, Pickett played in 13 games with a 67.2% completion average. He also threw for 4,319 yards with 42 TDs against just seven interceptions. Pickett can run, too. He had five rushing TDs for a 7.46 yards per carry average.
Kenny Pickett improved so dramatically in his three years under Whipple's tutelage that he was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year. If Whipple can have that kind of an impact on the Husker QBs and the performance of the Husker offense, Nebraska might have a chance to get its football program back on track.
The problem for all Frost's staff is that there isn't time for a Five Year Plan. Winning must happen now. A sense of urgency will be a constant companion of Frost and this staff this fall.