Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Hires Mark Whipple as Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach, Donovan Raiola To Coach O-Line

December 08, 2021

Nebraska has filled two key vacancies on its staff. Coach Scott Frost and the Huskers announced Wednesday that Mark Whipple accepted the role of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Donovan Raiola accepted the role as offensive line coach.

“We are excited to add Mark Whipple and Donovan Raiola to our offensive coaching staff,” Frost said in a statement. “Mark has four decades of coaching experience and brings a long record of offensive success to Nebraska. Donovan is an outstanding offensive line coach who has a history of winning as both a player and coach. I am confident their addition will have a positive impact on the young men in our program and the success of our offense.”

Whipple resigned from his position as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Dec. 7. He had held those titles since 2019, his first season at Pitt.

Whipple comes to Nebraska from the Atlantic Coast Conference champ Panthers, where he coached and developed 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Kenny Pickett. Under Whipple’s watch, Pickett, a fifth-year player, broke two records in last week’s ACC championship game against Wake Forest. One was Dan Marino’s school record of 79 career touchdowns passes—Pickett now holds the record with 81. The other was the ACC record for touchdown passes in a season, which Pickett now owns with 42, breaking the old mark of 41.

Whipple will be reunited with Nebraska’s current interim running backs coach Ron Brown in Lincoln. The two played together at Brown University, an Ivy League school, where Whipple was a quarterback and Brown, who would go on to be a longtime Husker assistant, was a defensive back. They were also on the same coaching staff at Brown University in 1983. Brown is currently one of the favorites to land the official running backs coaching role on Frost’s staff.

Whipple will replace Matt Lubick, who held the title of offensive coordinator and receivers coach. Last week, Nebraska announced the hiring of Mickey Joseph from LSU, who will coach receivers and also be the associate head coach and passing game coordinator. Joseph had spent the last five years in Baton Rouge developing and coaching some of the best receiving rooms in the country.

One of the glaring issues of the Nebraska football program in 2021 was the offensive line, which struggled to run block and protect quarterback Adrian Martinez, who has since entered his name in the transfer portal. Raiola was tabbed to fix it.

The Raiola name should ring a bell for Husker football fans. The brother of legendary Husker center Dominic Raiola and uncle to highly-touted 2024 quarterback recruit Dylan Raiola who threw at a Friday Night Lights camp over the summer, Donovan Raiola has spent the past four seasons in the NFL as an assistant offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears.

Chicago currently ranks eighth in the NFL in average rushing yards per game at 125.1. Due to injuries and poor play, the Bears’ offensive line has been a revolving door and hasn’t been good at protecting their quarterbacks, including first-round pick Justin Fields. The Bears rank second-to-last in the NFL in sacks allowed per game with 3.3.

The offensive line issues were present last year, too—the unit had six different starting combinations throughout the season—but Raiola and offensive line coach Juan Castillo still managed to have a 1,000-yard rusher in David Montgomery. In 2018, Raiola helped the Bears’ offensive line allow just 33 sacks, which tied for the third fewest in the NFC behind the Rams, Panthers and Saints. That year Chicago’s offense averaged 26.3 points per game, the fourth-best in the NFC.

Now Raiola’s focus will shift to Nebraska and its offensive line, which tied for 10th in the Big Ten in most sacks allowed with 29. Raiola will be taking over a unit that has a leader, center Cam Jurgens, who is mulling over a decision on whether or not to declare for the NFL draft with eligibility remaining.

There will also need to be substantial developmental work for the Huskers’ two young tackles on the edges in Turner Corcoran and Bryce Benhart, who both struggled to block edge rushers in 2021. The Husker o-line also saw guard Matt Sichterman move on from the program after he walked in the Senior Day event prior to the season finale against Iowa. Nouredin Nouili, a Colorado State transfer and graduate of nearby Norris High School, was a bright spot at guard and earned a scholarship midway through the season.

Raiola, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, got his coaching career started as an intern at Hawaii in 2014 before taking a graduate assistant role at Notre Dame from 2015-16. After a brief one-season stint as Aurora University’s o-line coach in 2017, he became the assistant o-line coach with the Bears.

Raiola was an offensive lineman at Wisconsin from 2002-05 and started 39 of 43 career games. He was tabbed as All-Big Ten honorable mention three times and was a captain for the Badgers his senior year.

Raiola suited up for six NFL teams during a professional playing career that spanned from 2006–11, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also had a brief stint in Nebraska as a member of the Omaha Nighthawks from 2010-11.

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