Spencer Whipple can't remember how old he was the first time he peeked into his father's playbook. But the 6-2, 210-pound junior knows his desire to learn how to beat defenses began long before he followed his father to the University of Miami last August. It probably started in his mother's womb.
"When I was little, I watched a lot of football. I always understood what was going on, who was winning. When I got a little older is when I started asking my dad questions," said Whipple, whose father Mark, a veteran NFL quarterbacks coach, has been UM's offensive coordinator since last year.
"He started talking to me more about offensive schemes, why teams run certain offenses. When he was [coaching in] college [Whipple was at Brown and UMass from 1993 to 2003], I'd hang around the practices, go to the meeting and just listen. When he was with the Steelers [2004-2006], I'd look at the playbooks, the schemes, X's and O's. I feel like I've learned a lot just being around my dad."
Truth is, Whipple (6-2, 210) is not your ordinary scout team quarterback. Set to turn 21 next month, he's been exposed to a lot of football in just three years at the college level and his grasp of different offensive schemes expands beyond what he learned just from his dad. While his father was coaching for the Steelers, Whipple led his high school team to an undefeated season. After receiving offers only from Football Championship Subdivision schools [formerly Division I-AA], he decided to walk on at the University of Pittsburgh as a freshman.
There, he spent a season learning from Matt Cavanaugh, a veteran NFL offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach now with the Jets. A year later, Whipple transferred to UMass where he learned an entirely different system. Now, a year after transferring to UM, he's on scholarship and learning from dad once again.
"I look at it as being fortunate because I've learned so many different schemes," Whipple said. "Everybody likes to teach different things. I'm hoping I can put them all together so one day if I become a coach, I'll have all this past experience with different coaches, different playbooks and be able to pass it on."
Whipple, last season's Scout Team Offensive MVP, is already doing some coaching with his young UM teammates. Even though he's competing directly with true freshman Stephen Morris and sophomore A.J. Highsmith for the backup job, Whipple said he often "slows thing down" for Morris and Highsmith if they struggle to pickup what his father is teaching them.
"Whenever they see something different than what my dad wants them to see, I'll point it out to them," said Whipple, who got in for one series (three plays) at UMass and completed his only pass attempt for 16 yards. "But I don't want to be on them every second because I know how that is. I just let them know I'm always there for them if they want to learn something or if they have to ask me something or need some help."
How much Whipple will be able to really help the Hurricanes remains to be seen. But there is no reason to think the left-handed quarterback can't win the backup job. He definitely believes he has a chance and that he can provide the Hurricanes with a steady hand if needed.
"I just try to pride myself on being a leader, controlling the game, making some plays with my arm and making some plays with my feet," Whipple said. "I might not have the biggest arm, but I know my plays and can make all the right reads."
> GUNN TRUMPS BAILEY: If there is one thing defensive end Allen Bailey took pride in off the field last year it was his dominance in trainer Andreu Swasey's weight room. The 6-4, 288-pound senior was more than happy about having four of his photos hanging from the Canes' famed Strength and Conditioning board.
But according to Bailey, after Swasey's first round of testing for the 2010 season (the Hurricanes will test again after spring football) he's now owns just three of the six categories in the offensive line/defensive line division. Blame junior offensive lineman Harland Gunn. According to Bailey, Gunn overtook him recently in the squat when he raised his maximum weight up to 620 pounds. Bailey said he still owns the power clean (405), the bench press (415) and 20-yard shuttle and plans to retake the title in the vertical leap (he won it last year with a 38 1/2 inch jump).
> The Hurricanes will begin hitting this afternoon, but will still be wearing shorts. The real hitting in full pads begins Saturday.