Thursday, January 16, 2014
Mark Whipple’s hiring has yet to be officially announced by the University of Massachusetts. Several sources have placed the introductory press conference at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, giving the university’s human resource department time to finalize the paperwork.
But Whipple’s staff is already coming together with some familiar faces.
Tom Masella, who was Whipple’s defensive coordinator in 2002 and 2003, will return in the same role. Masella, who spent most of his career coaching defense, was the offensive coordinator at Wagner in 2013.
Masella was the head coach for two seasons at Central Connecticut and for six years at Fordham after leaving UMass.
Former Minuteman quarterback Liam Coen, who has coached quarterbacks at Rhode Island and Brown, will fill the same roll at UMass. Coen was recruited by Whipple to UMass, but didn’t play for him because Whipple left for the NFL.
Dave Sollazzo, UMass’ defensive line coach under Charley Molnar, is expected to be retained according to Footballscoop.com.
Whipple’s son Spencer, a former quarterback at Miami, is expected to join the Minutemen as a graduate assistant.
In order to maximize recruiting, Whipple will likely add several other assistants quickly.
Here are some candidates who have worked with Whipple in the past who could rejoin him in Amherst:
Mike Cassano — The assistant director of player personnel at Georgia Tech was with Whipple in different roles at Brown, UMass and Miami. It would be almost surprising if Cassano, who is close with Whipple, didn’t rejoin him.
Matt Dawson — The defensive coordinator at Division II Virginia State played linebacker for and coached under Whipple at UMass. He also coached under Masella at Fordham. This could be an opportunity for him to return to Division I.
Brian Crist — He’s coached receivers and tight ends at UMass under Mike Hodges, Whipple, Don Brown and Kevin Morris. He coached at Division II Bridgewater College in 2013.
Sean Spencer — Coached defensive line and special teams under Whipple from 2001-03 and then Brown in 2007-08. He was the defensive line coach at Vanderbilt in 2013. If he has either an opportunity to follow coach James Franklin to Penn State or stay with the new head coach at Vanderbilt, he’s probably out of UMass’ price range. But if he falls through the cracks in transition, he might be someone Whipple would target.
Chris Malone — Like Dawson, he spent 2013 on the Virginia State staff coaching offensive line. He coached O-line and tight ends under Whipple at UMass from 2001-03.
Frank Forcucci — Coached defensive tackles and linebackers under Whipple before returning to UMass as the defensive coordinator under Kevin Morris in 2011. He spent 2013 as the defensive line/associate head coach at Becker College.
Paul Gorham — It will be interesting to see if Whipple might find a role for Gorham, who was UMass’ recruiting coordinator under Whipple at UMass, Brown University and New Haven. After Whipple left, Gorham was the head coach at Sacred Heart for eight seasons before being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease that required him to have both legs amputated and undergo a double lung transplant. Gorham was dismissed at Sacred Heart, but told the Hartford Courant within the last year that he’d hoped to return to coaching.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Brian Smith — Smith, who played for Whipple and was a key piece of the championship team in 1998, has been a quality control coach for the New York Jets since 2007. He was a three-year assistant at UMass under Brown.
Charles Walker — Like Coen, Walker was recruited by Whipple, but never played for him. Walker has spent the last two years as a defensive quality control coach at Vanderbilt.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage