|J. Pat Carter/Associated Press|
|Mark Whipple compiled a 49-26 record during his first stint as UMass head coach.|
Former NFL assistant Mark Whipple officially was introduced as Massachusetts' coach Tuesday morning. He previously coached the Minutemen from 1998-2003.
Whipple, 56, was out of football this past season, when UMass finished its second consecutive 1-11 season under Charley Molnar, who was fired in December.
Whipple's hiring means UAB and Vanderbilt are the only schools still looking for a new coach. UMass is one of 19 schools that changed coaches.
Whipple was the Cleveland Browns' quarterback coach in 2011 and '12, and was quarterback coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-06 and an offensive assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 and '08. He worked with then-rookie Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers in '04. His other pro experience came as quarterback coach with the USFL's Arizona Wranglers in 1984.
He left the Eagles and served as the University of Miami's offensive coordinator in 2009 and '10.
Whipple was 49-26 in his first go-round with the Minutemen. He led them to the NCAA Division I-AA title in 1998 and also took them to the I-AA playoffs in '99 and 2003 (the division now is called FCS).
"Sometimes you need to go away to find out where your home is. And I found it," he said during his introductory news conference Tuesday.
He takes over a tough situation. UMass had pockets of success after Whipple left following the '03 season, including a runner-up finish in the 2006 FCS playoffs under current Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown. But the school looked ill-prepared for the move to the FBS ranks in 2012. For the past two seasons, UMass has played its home games at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, but also about 100 miles from UMass' campus in Amherst. The school is renovating its on-campus stadium, but still is contracted to play at least four games per season at Gillette through 2016.
Recruiting is difficult for UMass, which has no natural rival in the Mid-American Conference and is located a long way from the rest of its conference opponents.
UMass averaged just 281.6 yards per game this season, which was 122nd (of 125) in the nation. UMass also was 99th in total defense. The most talented player was senior tight end Rob Blanchflower, who has been selected for the Reese's Senior Bowl. In addition, three starting offensive linemen were seniors and the entire starting front four on defense is gone.
Whipple is known as a quarterback guru of sorts. Mike Wegzyn and A.J. Doyle shared the job in 2013, and Doyle has some physical tools that could make him a good fit for a Whipple-led offense. Wegzyn announced plans to transfer in mid-December.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.