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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Whipple to run Miami's offense

Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Mark Whipple was sitting in a film room at the Philadelphia Eagles' complex last week, watching tapes of three Miami Hurricanes games from this past season.

He noticed many talented offensive players.

Now, it's Whipple's job to make them winners.

Whipple, who helped Ben Roethlisberger win his first Super Bowl and coached Massachusetts to a Division I-AA (now known as the Championship Subdivision) national title in 1998, was hired Tuesday as Miami's new offensive coordinator -- returning to the college game after four seasons as an NFL assistant.

He'll also be assistant head coach, something Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon didn't have in either of the past two years.

"In one sense, my goal was to be a coordinator in the National Football League and a head coach," Whipple said. "But this opportunity came ... and my focus is really on trying to get the University of Miami to a national championship."

The 51-year-old was an offensive assistant with the Eagles this past season. He accepted the Miami job on Monday, and the hiring process was complete Tuesday morning.

His first task will focus on recruiting: Signing day is Feb. 4, meaning Whipple will have about a week to get to know the players Miami is targeting. Whipple was planning to hit the road to start the recruiting quest Tuesday afternoon.

"Aside from being innovative at his craft, Mark is a tremendous individual who will positively impact our student-athletes on and off the field," Shannon said.

Whipple replaces Patrick Nix, who was fired after two seasons with the Hurricanes. Miami was 7-6 this past season, falling in the Emerald Bowl to California.

His hiring was well-received quickly in the Miami football circle.

" 'The U' is going to be back," Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James -- a former Miami star and a cousin of current Hurricanes running back Javarris James -- said shortly after the announcement in Tampa, Fla., where he was taking part in Super Bowl media day.

Nix, after he was fired, said he had had a different philosophy than Shannon.

So Shannon spent much of the past month searching for someone he'd be in sync with, and ultimately decided on Whipple, whose reputation in the college game was an impressive one.

"If we're not playing well on offense, then I know we're not going to be on the same page," Whipple said. "If we don't make first downs or score touchdowns, then no, our relationship's not going to be very good. That's just the bottom line."

Miami is returning several of its top offensive players from last season, including quarterback Jacory Harris, both starting running backs, most of the offensive line and its top six receivers.

"I feel like we're going to be a great team," Whipple said.

Whipple was the Steelers' quarterbacks coach from 2004 through 2006, helping to develop Roethlisberger, who was the youngest starting QB to win a Super Bowl four seasons ago when Pittsburgh beat the Seattle Seahawks.

He spent 16 years as a head coach at Massachusetts; Brown, his alma mater; and New Haven, going 121-59 in those seasons.

Whipple's 1998 team at Massachusetts set school records in points scored (524); touchdowns (73); total yards (7,074); passing yards (4,050); completions (306); and first downs (354). He also had record-setting offenses at Brown during four seasons there, as well as at New Haven, which led the nation by averaging 50.5 points and 588 yards per game in 1992.

Whipple has also coached at St. Lawrence and Union in upstate New York, as well as with the USFL's Arizona Wranglers and at New Hampshire.

At every stop, Whipple has planned to win a championship. He sees no reason not to do the same at Miami.

"No one rises to low expectations," Whipple said.