The big 2014 UMass football preview: It won't get any worse

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In replacing Charley Molnar, UMass went with a coach who not only has a lot of experience, but has experience coaching at UMass. Mark Whipple returns to Amherst for his second go-round as head Minuteman. Godspeed, coach.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

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1. Two years is not a long time

Rebuilding tends to take a while, especially when a rebuilding job converges with an upgrade in your level of competition.

When Notre Dame offensive coordinator (and longtime MAC assistant) Charley Molnar took over the UMass head coaching job in 2012, he inherited a team that was simultaneously moving up to FBS and coming off of its worst three-year win total (16) since 1995-97. He talked a big game*, but while I assumed the Minutemen's 2012 campaign would be "largely forgettable," I didn't foresee what actually occurred. UMass went 1-11 and ranked 122nd in the F/+ rankings in 2012 (with the No. 123 offense), then improved to 1-11 and 118th (122nd on offense).

* Wow, did he talk a big game. My favorite: "Or we can say ‘Wow, how did UMass do that? How did UMass move from I-AA football to a [team] that plays in a sold-out Gillette Stadium?'"

There are different ways to go 2-22, I guess. You can start hopeless, grow more experienced and competitive, and hint at a breakthrough in the coming year or two. Or, in Molnar's case, you can experience almost no growth whatsoever. Citing a lack of growth and an alarming dissipation in student/alumni enthusiasm, UMass athletic director John McCutcheon let Molnar go right after Christmas.

Two years never feels like enough time to properly evaluate a coach, especially when he takes on a pretty tough job. Sometimes it just takes a while; for instance, Bobby Hauck went 4-21 in his first two years at UNLV, but in his fourth year, he engineered the Rebels' first bowl bid in almost 15 years. But while one can almost always question firing a coach so soon, it's hard to build too much of a case in Molnar's defense. UMass was awful and hadn't provided any reason to believe things would be getting better soon. And two years after starting fresh, UMass starts over.

2. A good hire, considering

UMass got a late start in its coaching search, letting Molnar go a few weeks after Coaching Change Season began in full force. The Minutemen did not have the pull of a strong history or a bright future, and there weren't necessarily a lot of exciting candidates with built-in UMass ties.

Despite rather long odds, however, they indeed found an interesting name with quite the history in Amherst: Mark Whipple. Whipple is not exactly an up-and-comer; he's 56 years old and has spent the last decade of his career as an offensive assistant at both the NFL (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland) and college (Miami) levels. He hasn't been a head coach in 11 years, but if you're looking for a mix of both experience and Northeastern ties, Whipple has quite a bit of both. He became head coach of the New Haven Chargers in 1988 at the age of 30, moved on to Brown in 1994. In 1998, he not only became the head coach at UMass, but he also won an FCS national title in his first year. In six years at UMass, he reached the playoffs three times and won 49 games.

In all, Whipple won 121 games in 16 seasons as a head coach in the Northeast. And then he became a relatively well-regarded, pro-style offensive assistant. He has proven he can win in the very office he now occupies (at a different level of competition, yes). It's hard to imagine a hire much better than that. There's no guarantee that he will succeed, but he's got as good a chance as anybody.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 1-11 | Adj. Record: 0-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 118
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug at Wisconsin 19 0-45 L 14.2 - 43.2 L
7-Sep Maine N/A 14-24 L 8.3 - 47.8 L
14-Sep at Kansas State 24 7-37 L 21.2 - 39.6 L
21-Sep Vanderbilt 50 7-24 L 24.5 - 35.7 L
5-Oct at Bowling Green 47 7-28 L 27.4 - 30.2 L -20.2
12-Oct Miami (Ohio) 123 17-10 W 17.3 - 35.8 L -18.1
19-Oct at Buffalo 80 3-32 L 21.1 - 30.6 L -12.1
26-Oct Western Michigan 117 30-31 L 20.0 - 39.0 L -12.2
2-Nov Northern Illinois 60 19-63 L 21.7 - 43.3 L -14.3
16-Nov Akron 108 13-14 L 16.6 - 29.4 L -16.3
23-Nov at Central Michigan 111 0-37 L 8.8 - 23.3 L -15.5
29-Nov at Ohio 104 23-51 L 14.8 - 42.8 L -19.2
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -19.8% 122 -11.0% 105 -1.9% 96
Points Per Game 11.7 123 33.0 97
Adj. Points Per Game 18.0 122 36.7 117

3. A house is not a home

Molnar talked a big game about one day filling Gilette Stadium. But in six 2013 home games, the Minutemen did not manage to fill one-third of it even once. In a stadium that holds 68,756, Umass drew 15,624, 16,419, 21,707, 20,571, 10,061, and 10,599. Add those figures together, and it doesn't fill the stadium even twice over.

It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that UMass had absolutely no home-field advantage whatsoever in 2013.

Adj. Points Per Game (Home): Opponent 38.5, UMass 18.1 (minus-20.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (Road): Opponent 35.0, UMass 17.9 (minus-17.1)

The goal of the Adj. Score is to project how a team would have done against a perfectly average opponent. In 2013, UMass played well enough to stay within a touchdown of an average opponent just once, and that happened on the road, in a 21-point loss to a solid Bowling Green squad.

This was a bad team. Let's just move on.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.94 124 IsoPPP+ 87.4 122
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.0% 117 Succ. Rt. + 78.2 120
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 33.4 115 Def. FP+ 94.4 111
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 2.4 124 Redzone S&P+ 63.1 125
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.5 ACTUAL 26 +3.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 122 124 121 123
RUSHING 105 125 122 118
PASSING 113 110 112 114
Standard Downs 122 120 116
Passing Downs 121 119 118
Q1 Rk 103 1st Down Rk 124
Q2 Rk 118 2nd Down Rk 118
Q3 Rk 124 3rd Down Rk 116
Q4 Rk 122

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
A.J. Doyle 6'3, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 128 235 1274 6 11 54.5% 11 4.5% 5.0
Mike Wegzyn


49 101 603 3 7 48.5% 4 3.8% 5.5
Todd Stafford 6'7, 250 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Blake Frohnapfel
(Marshall)
6'6, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 17 22 206 3 1 77.3% 1 4.3% 9.5

4. Saved by the Frohnapfel?

There are a lot of ways to tell you how awful UMass' offense was in 2013. This might be my favorite: 34 FBS teams averaged at least 2.5 points per possession, including the MAC's Toledo, Bowling Green, Ball State, and NIU. UMass, meanwhile, averaged 2.4 points per trip inside the 40. Never mind all of the possessions that didn't reach the 40.

Let's put that another way: If every single UMass drive had started at or inside the opponent's 40-yard line, the Minutemen still wouldn't have ranked in the overall top 30 in points per possession.

Let's put that one more way: UMass opponents averaged 2.5 points per possession while starting at, on average, their 33-yard line. UMass, meanwhile, averaged 2.4 points per possession on only drives that got to at least the opponent's 40.

None of the top three running backs averaged even 4.0 yards per carry. None of the top eight targets averaged even 7.0 yards per target. The line was terribly young and might have been the worst run-blocking unit in the country.

Enter Blake Frohnapfel. A two-year backup behind Marshall's awesome Rakeem Cato, Frohnapfel is utilizing the graduate transfer rule and heading from Huntington to Amherst, where he will be expected to immediately challenge returning starter A.J. Doyle for first-string honors.

With Frohnapfel, Doyle, and a couple of relatively interesting youngsters, Whipple and quarterbacks coach Liam Coen will have options behind center. And if they can go about solving that problem ... well, there are still plenty of items on the to-do list, but the biggest one will be checked off, at least.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Jamal Wilson RB 5'10, 200 Jr. NR 100 368 1 3.7 3.1 39.0%
Stacey Bedell RB


93 301 1 3.2 3.1 21.5%
Lorenzo Woodley RB 6'0, 215 So. 3 stars (5.7) 84 314 2 3.7 3.4 31.0%
A.J. Doyle QB 6'3, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 54 201 0 3.7 2.5 46.3%
Shadrach Abrokwah RB 5'9, 200 So. NR 51 203 1 4.0 4.2 25.5%
Mike Wegzyn QB 6'5, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 26 121 0 4.7 1.9 50.0%
Greg Orekoya RB 5'10, 190 Sr. NR 14 43 0 3.1 0.9 42.9%
Shaquille Harris WR 6'2, 206 So. 2 stars (5.4) 4 65 0 16.3 13.8 75.0%
J.T. Blyden RB 6'0, 204 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Tajae Sharpe WR 6'2, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 101 61 680 60.4% 33.1% 57.1% 6.7 -83 7.0 82.5
Rob Blanchflower TE 46 27 313 58.7% 15.1% 57.8% 6.8 -30 6.8 38.0
Bernard Davis WR 6'1, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 30 16 134 53.3% 9.8% 39.1% 4.5 -80 5.0 16.3
Elgin Long WR 5'10, 189 Jr. NR 27 14 179 51.9% 8.9% 47.6% 6.6 -11 5.7 21.7
Jamal Wilson RB 5'10, 200 Jr. NR 23 14 106 60.9% 7.5% 45.5% 4.6 -68 4.7 12.9
Derek Beck WR


22 15 134 68.2% 7.2% 69.2% 6.1 -43 5.3 16.3
Stacey Bedell RB


12 6 78 50.0% 3.9% 30.0% 6.5 -5 11.0 9.5
Ricardo Miller TE 9 5 52 55.6% 3.0% 40.0% 5.8 -13 6.4 6.3
Brandon Howard TE 6'5, 250 Jr. NR 7 4 55 57.1% 2.3% 0.0% 7.9 3 3.0 6.7
Rodney Mills WR 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 5 47 71.4% 2.3% 100.0% 6.7 -11 6.1 5.7
Shakur Nesmith WR 6'4, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 7 2 14 28.6% 2.3% 0.0% 2.0 -26 1.6 1.7
E.J. Burston WR 6'3, 175 So. 2 stars (5.2) 4 2 18 50.0% 1.3% 100.0% 4.5 -10 -0.3 2.2
Shaquille Harris WR 6'2, 206 So. 2 stars (5.4) 4 1 36 25.0% 1.3% 100.0% 9.0 14 10.0 4.4
Dalvin Battle WR 5'10, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0 0 0 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 0 0.0 0.0
D.J. Woods WR 5'9, 170 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0 0 0 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 0 0.0 0.0
Alex Kenney (Penn State) WR 6'0, 195 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 5 3 25 60.0% 1.3% 100.0% 5.0 -13 4.4 3.1
Jon Denton TE 6'5, 260 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)








5. A high degree of difficulty

All things considered, Tajae Sharpe might be a hell of a wideout. The junior from Piscataway was the No. 1 and No. 2 target for UMass in 2013, and when tight end Rob Blanchflower was lost for the season with injury (he played only six games), Sharpe was the No. 3 target as well. When you consider the quality of the quarterback and the fact that said quarterback was frequently trying to pass on second- or third-and-long, Sharpe's 60-percent catch rate and 6.7 yards per target might have been super-human averages.

Sharpe still has a couple of years to make a name for himself, and there's at least a chance that his supporting cast improves in 2014. Blanchflower is gone, but almost every wideout returns (for what that's worth), and the receiving corps will be plumped up by both JUCO tight end Jon Denton and Penn State transfer Alex Kenney. Kenney has never lived up to his four-star recruiting status -- he's caught 21 passes for 207 yards in three years -- but from an athleticism standpoint, he still represents an upgrade. If Sharpe gets any support at all, he might have all-conference potential.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 75.2 2.49 2.53 33.9% 73.7% 21.7% 147.8 2.9% 4.5%
Rank 126 119 115 112 36 102 17 23 33
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Anthony Dima LT 31
Tyrell Smith LG 6'5, 295 So. 2 stars (5.2) 12
Matt Sparks C 6'4, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 12
Vincent Westcarr RG 12
David Osei RT 12
Tyshon Henderson LT 6'7, 339 So. 2 stars (5.2) 1
Fabian Hoeller LG 6'3, 290 So. 2 stars (5.2) 1
Josh Bruns RT 6'5, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Enock Asante OL 6'2, 260 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Sam Zeff OL 6'5, 277 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Rich Queen OL 6'3, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Ryan Johnson OL 6'5, 320 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)

Dimitry Angelas OL 6'5, 291 Fr. 2 stars (5.3)

Anthony Fernandez OL 6'6, 285 Fr. 2 stars (5.3)

6. Chicken vs. egg, line vs. runner

Of the seven linemen who started at least one game for UMass in 2013, three were freshmen, and one was a sophomore. (Granted, three were also seniors.) So when you see that the Minutemen finished 126th, dead last, in Adj. Line Yards, know that the line producing those awful numbers was relatively young.

Pass protection was a strength, albeit one helped by a quick-passing style, but at the very least Whipple can plan on having an increasingly experienced line over the coming years. Now they'll just need to find running backs to take advantage of the blocks delivered. It was a chicken-and-egg situation last year.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.19 85 IsoPPP+ 90.4 111
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 47.5% 105 Succ. Rt. + 82.7 117
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 27.3 108 Def. FP+ 95.5 101
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.2 71 Redzone S&P+ 92.3 81
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.0 ACTUAL 19.0 +1.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 99 119 117 113
RUSHING 107 116 117 113
PASSING 42 115 111 100
Standard Downs 117 118 109
Passing Downs 118 108 114
Q1 Rk 109 1st Down Rk 111
Q2 Rk 122 2nd Down Rk 123
Q3 Rk 111 3rd Down Rk 113
Q4 Rk 116

7. Old is new

When UMass decided to get the Mark Whipple Band back together for 2014, Whipple brought along his bass player. Tom Masella was Whipple's defensive coordinator at UMass in 2002-03 and has racked up head coaching experience at four Northeastern colleges: Fairfield, Boston U., Central Connecticut, and Fordham. He recently added offensive coordinator experience at Wagner as well, just for grins.

Masella inherits a defense that was further along than its offense, but that's not necessarily saying a lot. UMass was pretty good at stiffening in the red zone, but the Minutemen faced far too many opportunities to prove their red zone prowess. The secondary is pretty deep and aggressive and could become a strength in the right coordinator's hands, but the front four needs quite a bit of work. The line produced 17.0 tackles for loss, a pretty meager total, but those responsible for 14.5 of those TFLs are gone, and the Minutemen are all but guaranteed to feature a few freshmen up front.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 86.4 3.38 3.01 45.1% 64.9% 17.5% 43 3.2% 2.4%
Rank 115 115 31 115 51 85 126 102 125
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Justin Anderson DE 10 38.0 6.0% 6.5 4.0 0 2 0 0
Kevin Byrne DT 10 26.0 4.1% 2.5 1.0 1 1 2 0
Galen Clemons DT 10 20.5 3.2% 2.5 1.0 0 2 0 0
Daniel Maynes DT 6'2, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.1) 9 18.5 2.9% 0.5 0.0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Potvin DE 11 14.0 2.2% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Peter Angeh DE 6'2, 245 So. 2 stars (5.2) 6 8.5 1.3% 1.5 0.0 0 0 1 0
Trey Seals DE 6'4, 231 Jr. NR 7 6.5 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 2 1 0
Robert Kitching DT 6'1, 300 Jr. 2 stars 6 5.0 0.8% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Adam Richard DE 6'3, 220 So. NR 3 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sha-Ki Holines DE 6'3, 260 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Deshawn Downey DE 6'5, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)
Chris Carter DE 6'4, 260 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)
Jake Largay DT 6'6, 280 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)
Josh Smiley DE 6'6, 235 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)
Jack Wynne DE 6'5, 243 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Stanley Andre ILB 6'2, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 76.5 12.0% 6.0 0.5 0 2 1 0
Tom Brandt ILB 8 23.0 3.6% 2.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jovan Santos-Knox OLB 6'2, 240 Jr. NR 10 21.5 3.4% 4.0 0.5 1 0 1 0
Kassan Messiah OLB 6'4, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 12.5 2.0% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shane Huber LB 6'3, 230 So. 2 stars (5.3) 7 11.5 1.8% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Steve Casali LB 6'2, 225 So. 2 stars (5.2) 1 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Peter Ngobidi LB 6'2, 225 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Zeke Edmonds LB 6'0, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Devin Brown S 12 67.5 10.6% 3 0 2 2 0 0
Ed Saint-Vil NB 5'11, 190 Sr. NR 10 57.0 8.9% 0.5 0 0 3 1 0
Joe Colton S 5'8, 195 Jr. NR 10 50.5 7.9% 3.5 1 0 3 0 0
Antoine Tharpe S 11 37.0 5.8% 2 0 1 3 0 0
Randall Jette CB 5'11, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 34.0 5.3% 2 0 1 11 2 1
Trey Dudley-Giles CB 5'11, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 31.0 4.9% 1.5 0 0 3 0 0
D'Metrius Williams CB 5'11, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 21.0 3.3% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Khary Bailey-Smith DB 6'2, 200 Jr. NR 7 18.0 2.8% 0 0 2 0 0 0
Quayshun Smith CB 5'9, 170 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 9 14.5 2.3% 2 1 0 2 0 0
Jaurice Jones S 6'1, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Jarrell Addo DB 6'2, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)
Charan Singh DB 6'2, 192 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)






8. A salty secondary

If the front seven can help out -- a pretty significant "if" -- the secondary could thrive (relatively speaking). Randall Jette's passes defensed-to-tackles ratio (12 PDs, 34.0 tackles) suggests he's pretty effectively aggressive (that, or he misses a ton of tackles), and safeties Ed Saint-Vil and Joe Colton are decent play-makers. You see a pretty high level of activity in these stat lines, and I would say that if the D comes around to any degree in 2014, the secondary will be the reason.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Colter Johnson 69 37.3 4 19 15 49.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Brendon Levengood 38 57.8 7 2 18.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Blake Lucas 5'8, 166 Jr. 10-10 2-4 50.0% 1-6 16.7%
Brendon Levengood 4-4 3-3 100.0% 6-6 100.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Trey Dudley-Giles KR 5'11, 185 Jr. 30 22.3 0
Joe Colton KR 5'8, 195 Jr. 9 19.4 0
Trey Dudley-Giles PR 5'11, 185 Jr. 12 12.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 96
Field Goal Efficiency 79
Punt Return Efficiency 67
Kick Return Efficiency 58
Punt Efficiency 114
Kickoff Efficiency 75
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 105

9. If UMass can force punts ...

... Trey Dudley-Giles could become quite a weapon returning them. We're dealing with small sample sizes here, but Dudley-Giles was a solid returner, and if the Minutemen can find a semi-capable punter, special teams could be a relative strength.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Boston College 80
6-Sep Colorado 96
13-Sep at Vanderbilt 58
20-Sep at Penn State 38
TBD Ball State 81
TBD Bowling Green 60
TBD Buffalo 107
TBD Eastern Michigan 122
TBD at Akron 118
TBD at Kent State 102
TBD at Miami (Ohio) 121
TBD at Toledo 53
Five-Year F/+ Rk -33.2% (125)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 118
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -7 / -4.5
TO Luck/Game -1.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (7, 5)

10. It probably isn't going to get worse

Whipple is by no means a young up-and-comer, but one can see why UMass was attracted to him. He has a lengthy résumé, and once upon a time, he was able to build a pretty competitive team in Amherst. And even though that was at the FCS level, UMass was at least a great FCS program. The Minutemen would have struggled to win four or five games at even the FCS level these past two years.

This is still a really hard job, even for a seasoned, steady hand. And even if Frohnapfel sticks, and Tajae Sharpe turns out to be excellent, and a more experienced offensive line gels, and the secondary turns out to be solid, and special teams turns into a minor strength ... we're still probably only talking about a team that ranks in the No. 100-110 range and has no home-field advantage to speak of.

Still, we know that things probably aren't going to get worse, and we know that whatever steadiness is possible at this program at the moment, the odds are decent that Whipple will find that. Eventually.

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