Much of the talk surrounding the Massachusetts football team centers around the return of coach Mark Whipple and the subsequent implementation of his pro-style offense similar to many currently run in the NFL.
It’s talk that excites new transfer quarterback Blake Frohnapfel who, like many others, is eager to see how the offense develops as the team progresses through training camp. This past spring, Frohnapfel watched tape of the offense and his teammates practicing from home and, once getting to Amherst this summer, immediately enrolled receivers in doing extra passing drills on the side. Now, the entire offense has a chance to continue learning as a cohesive unit in a traditional camp setting. Frohnapfel — who is entrenched in a competition for the quarterback job with incumbent starter A.J. Doyle — hopes to lead the first-team as it grows as a unit.
But in order to do that, he first had to go back to the most simple of basics.
“The first time I took a seven step drop for real was today,” he said with a smile after the first practice of the year.
“The first time you’re doing it you feel like you’re dropping back forever, but you start to get used to it more and more and now it feels like I’m not really counting my steps anymore dropping back.”
Neither Frohnapfel or Doyle had much experience working with a pro-style offense. In high school, Frohnapfel ran the veer option, a predominantly running-based offense. Even at his original school Marshall, the junior wasn’t tasked with working through his progressions and alternating between multiple types of drops from under center. But he’s already feeling more acclimated to the system and hopes he can now move even deeper into the offense and mesh with his teammates.
“Just at first, I was counting my steps doing drops and now I can think about coverages and receivers and corner matchups a little more,” Frohnapfel said. “I feel a lot more comfortable in that regard.”
Aiding in the process is Whipple, a coach with a reputation for excelling in developing and quarterbacks and hand-picked Frohnapfel to compete for a starting job. Whipple’s reputation as being “very good with quarterbacks” enticed Frohnapfel to head north to Amherst.
“To have a chance to come here and have a chance to play under him and just listen to some of the things he says about certain plays and footwork and stuff like that is where you can really tell he knows a lot about the quarterback position,” Frohnapfel said.
Frohnapfel appeared to settle into more of a rhythm by the end of practice and utilized receivers and running backs running underneath routes in 7-on-7 drills. He and Doyle shared first-team reps and figure to spent the next 1-to-2 weeks battling for the starting role before an official decision is announced.
As he continues to adjust, Frohnapfel plans to take it day by day and let the decision process play out on its own.
“I can’ t really worry about it too much,” he said. “Just come out here and do the best I can for that day. And if I have a bad day then let it go and if I have a good day then keep building on that.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@UMass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli