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Nebraska Football: Scott Frost's Staff Revamp Off to Good Start With Mark Whipple, Other Hires

Mark Whipple, Pittsburgh Panthers Football

Former Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is the new play-caller at Nebraska

It's no secret Nebraska coach Scott Frost faces a critical make-or-break 2022 season, and the pressure is on the former Cornhusker quarterback to get the program back on track. Since taking over in 2018, Nebraska is 15-29 overall and has not won more than five games in a single season. The overall mark and 2021 record (3-9) aren't meeting expectations in Lincoln, which forced Frost into a tough offseason assignment: Navigate a successful staff revamp amidst one of the hottest seats in college football.

Related: Is Bringing Scott Frost Back for 2022 the Right Decision?

On Wednesday, the program made two major assistant hires, announcing Mark Whipple would join as offensive coordinator, and Donovan Raiola will tutor the line next year. Whipple and Raiola join Mickey Joseph as three new members of Frost's staff for 2022. One additional assistant spot remains open for next season.

Joseph — a former Nebraska quarterback and a coach regarded for his work on the recruiting trail in Louisiana — is a solid addition to boost the receiving corps. Raiola is arguably the coach under the most pressure right away, as the Cornhuskers struggled mightily in the trenches last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Nebraska allowed a whopping 172 quarterback pressures in 2021. Also, the offense managed only 4.4 yards per carry in Big Ten games. Raiola has limited experience at FBS programs, working from 2015-16 as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame and '14 as an intern at Hawaii. But the former Wisconsin Badger has worked for the last four seasons with the Bears and brings valuable NFL experience to the staff.

Both Joseph and Raiola have their work cut out for them in 2022, but Whipple's arrival is the most important. The 64-year-old coordinator arrives after an extremely successful stint at Pitt. As indicated by the numbers below, Whipple's offense got better each year in the Steel City:

Mark Whipple's Offenses at Pitt

Yards Per PlayScoringPlays of 40+SP+ Rating

2019

5.2

21.2

10

109

2020

5.1

29.0

12

86

2021

6.5

43.0

14

7

Nebraska's Offense from 2019-21

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Yards Per PlayScoringPlays of 40+SP+ Rating

2019

5.8

28.0

19

41

2020 (8 games)

5.6

23.1

6

35

2021

6.4

27.9

20

34

Prior to Pitt, Whipple has spent time as a head coach at UMass (1998-03 and 2014-18), called the plays at Miami (2009-10), and worked in the NFL with the Steelers (2004-06), Eagles (2008), and Browns (2011-12). Whipple's experience overall as a coach, along with his background in developing quarterbacks, should be a huge asset to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers lost quarterback Adrian Martinez to transfer, but Logan Smothers showed promise in a start against Iowa and more help could come via the transfer portal. After helping Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett become a Heisman finalist this year, Whipple's presence should be a strong selling point to quarterbacks interested in Lincoln.

In addition to Whipple's play-calling and work with quarterbacks, how the veteran coach meshes his offense and scheme with Joseph, Raiola, and Frost (along with the playbook Nebraska used in 2020) will be something to watch this offseason. Nebraska leaned more on the run (490 rushing attempts to 342 passes), compared to Pitt (521 passes to 493 rushes) in 2021. Shifting to a pass-heavy offense seems unlikely, but Whipple should help bolster a passing game that could use some fresh ideas.

It's entirely possible these hires won't change the overall trajectory of the program or Frost's long-term status in Lincoln. But for a coach on the hot seat, the additions of Whipple, Raiola, and Joseph are solid hires and a step in the right direction. 

Frost, plus the three new assistants won't have the luxury of a rebuilding year in 2022. They need to win right away, and Frost's game plan of improving next fall is underscored by passing on younger coordinators for Whipple.

After Wednesday's announcement, two questions remain in Lincoln: Will Frost hire a special teams coach? And will a quarterback join the roster via the transfer portal?

The 2022 season is all about winning now for Frost. If he doesn't, there won't be a '23 campaign in Lincoln. Bringing in Joseph, Raiola or Whipple may not register as the best hires of the offseason, but for a coach squarely on the hot seat, all three seem like the right fits. Of course, the big question now is — will that actually translate into wins?

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