Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass names Blake Frohnapfel as the starting quarterback

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Courtesy of Daniel Malone/MassLive

Courtesy of Daniel Malone/MassLive

Massachusetts quarterback Blake Frohnapfel has waited his entire career for an opportunity to earn a chance to earn a starting role.

After two years of waiting at Marshall and his subsequent transfer to UMass, Frohnapfel has finally found that opportunity, as Minutemen coach Mark Whipple announced that Frohnapfel will be the team’s starting quarterback. It was a decision Whipple relayed to Frohnapfel in a 1-on-1 conversation following a team scrimmage last Thursday.

“After the scrimmage, he just said ‘this is your team,’” Frohnapfel said of his conversation with Whipple.

“(He) embraced it, started to lead these guys and we have a big game coming up and get ready for it.”

Frohnapfel and quarterback A.J. Doyle competed for the starting spot throughout the first two weeks of training camp in a competition that was tightly contested. Whipple mentioned on numerous occasions how impressed he was with both quarterbacks, but simply thought Frohnapfel gained a slight edge.

“Those guys have been competing all the way through,” Whipple said. “(Frohnapfel) had experience and just played a little bit better. A.J. (Doyle) played good, Frohnapfel just played a little better.”

Frohnapfel, a 6-foot-6, 225 pound quarterback with two years of eligibility remaining, said the competition was never “mean-hearted” and he developed a solid rapport with Doyle. But as he settled into a groove and practice progressed, he believed he found his rhythm.

“There were times where I’d think ‘maybe I have a shot here’ and there were times where I was sitting in my room kind of unsure about what I’m doing,” Frohnapfel said. “More toward the end there, I started to get a little more comfortable. I started to feel like I was taking a leadership role a little more and I started to feel more comfortable being in the No. 1 spot.”

Leadership and efficiency were two qualities which the UMass coaching staff sought out in both quarterbacks as the competition unfolded. Minutemen receiver Tajae Sharpe praised Frohnapfel’s ability to command the offense when necessary.

“He’s a great leader for the quarterback position,” Sharpe said. “You have to kind of take control of the offense and be that (vocal) leader and lead by your play as well. So I definitely think he’s doing a great job of stepping into that role.”

Both Frohnapfel and Doyle have become leaders within the quarterback room as well. Quarterbacks coach Liam Coen noted that Frohnapfel wasn’t an overly vocal leader, but impressed with his ability to know the playbook and stay organized with his tasks. He believed Frohnapfel struck the right chord with his teammates upon joining the team this season.

“He knew how to handle the situation coming in,” Coen said. “I think he handled it really well. He’s not a rah-rah guy, he can get pumped up and get excited but he knew that he was walking into a situation where he wanted to come in and be quietly confident and compete.”

Frohnapfel noted that he had to adjust schematically to the new offense in the early stages of camp and needed time to find his comfort level. Once he shook the rust off, the coaching staff started to slightly increase his practice reps to get a better look at him on film.

When Frohnapfel arrived on campus, the coaching staff hoped he’d seamlessly fit into the offense due to his experiences at Marshall, where he was the second-string quarterback. Coen noted the team saw a lot of similarities in the types of reads and progressions he made at Marshall when watching the tape. Since Frohnapfel’s arrived, he’s displayed a strong understanding of the system.

“The thing about Blake is that when you call a play, the playbook’s open with him.” Coen said.

“You know you’re generally going to get a completion with him. You know he’s going to make the right decision. … He’s going to give you a position to be successful with finding a completion. He does a really good job of getting the ball out of his hands.”

Doyle will serve as the backup quarterback for the Minutemen.

Frohnapfel acknowledged there’s a sense of pressure now that he’s the starter. The team will begin preparation and installation for Boston College on Friday and has less than two weeks until the first game of the season.

“It’ll be my first start, so obviously there’s a certain pressure there,” Frohnapfel said. “But obviously it’s something I’ve been excited for for a long time and I’m ready for it.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

Edited 3:05 p.m.
A previous version of this article did not acknowledge the role of A.J. Doyle with the Minutemen as backup quarterback.

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