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Pitt loses offensive coordinator to Nebraska, QB Pickett now 'undecided' about bowl game

The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) talks with offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Add another employer to Mark Whipple's long coaching resume.

A day after leaving Pitt as its most successful offensive coordinator in decades, Whipple was named to the same position at Nebraska on Tuesday, joining Scott Frost's reconfigured staff.

HuskerOnline publisher Sean Callahan reported that Nebraska may nearly double Whipple's salary at Pitt, which Callahan reported as "just under" $500,000 annually. Nebraska (3-9, 1-8 Big Ten) ended the season on a six-game losing streak, and Frost responded by firing four offensive assistants.

"We are excited to add Mark Whipple and Donovan Raiola (line coach) to our offensive staff," Frost said in a statement. "Mark has four decades of coaching experience and brings a long record of offensive success to Nebraska. I am confident their addition will have a positive impact on the young men in our program and the success of our offense."

Whipple's departure, however, doesn't help Pitt with one week remaining before the first signing period begins Dec. 15. Pitt has only 10 prospects who have remained verbally committed to the program, and there are no quarterbacks on the list.

As his final act as a Pitt assistant, Whipple met Monday with Chubba Purdy, a former four-star quarterback who is transferring from Florida State. Purdy remains undecided on his next school.

Nebraska will be the 15th coaching stop in Whipple's 42-year career, including two stints as head coach at UMass, plus six seasons on the staffs of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns. It's his first job west of the Mississippi River since he was a quarterbacks assistant for the USFL's Arizona Wranglers in 1984.

Meanwhile, the problems for Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi continue to grow — mere days after winning the ACC championship. He must finalize the 2022 recruiting class, name a play-caller for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl — where Pitt will play Michigan State on Dec. 30 — and find a replacement for two of the most important people in his program (Whipple and quarterback Kenny Pickett).

And he may need to replace Pickett sooner than he expected.

Pickett now "undecided" about bowl: After the ACC championship game Saturday, Pickett told reporters that he planned to play in the Peach Bowl. But on the "Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday morning, he said he is now undecided. Pickett has an extremely close relationship with Whipple from their three seasons together, and he has said he probably would not have returned to Pitt for a fifth season if Whipple wasn't there.

"With the recent news out of our team, with coach Whipple and everybody ... I just got home (Tuesday) and I didn't get a chance to talk about it with my parents," he told Patrick. "Just kind of enjoying the season and getting a chance to see some family I haven't been around in a long time. Definitely, I'll be talking about that with my family here soon.

"I'd say undecided right now."

Pickett, a projected first-round draft choice next year, said he has spoken to Whipple since he resigned, but he declined to reveal what was discussed.

"Things happen and he has his reasons," Pickett said, "and I can't thank him enough for all things that we were able to accomplish together in three years, seeing how much we grew. Just a lot of hard work and very grateful for coach Whip."

Asked by Patrick what he could gain by playing in the Peach Bowl, Pickett said, "That's something I haven't sat down and discussed with my family. These next couple days, I'll be able to sit down and really figure that out."

If Pickett doesn't play, junior Nick Patti likely would get the start. He has been Pickett's No. 1 backup this season, but sophomores Joey Yellen and Davis Beville and freshman Nate Yarnell are also part of Pitt's depth chart at quarterback.

Pitt has two assistants on the staff with play-calling experience. Tight ends coach Tim Salem, 60, has been an offensive coordinator at Phoenix College, Purdue, Eastern Michigan and UCF. Along with running back/special teams coach Andre Powell, Salem is one of two assistants who have been with Narduzzi through all seven seasons at Pitt.

Also, Greensburg Salem graduate Brennan Marion, 34, who is the Panthers' first-year wide receivers coach, was offensive coordinator at Howard and William & Mary.