In this year’s path to the NFL Draft, University of Massachusetts quarterback Blake Frohnapfel has slipped through the cracks of traditional media outlets.
That could very well be a mistake on their part.
With his Pro Day approaching this Thursday, Frohnapfel is clearly preparing for the near future. However, starting with the fact that he’s thrown for nearly 600 yards in a college game, he also brings an intriguing past to scouts interested in someone with untapped potential.
The 589 yards came in a loss to Bowling Green, a contest that required him to attempt more than 60 passes in a decidedly pro-style offense. Five times, he’s thrown for more than 300 yards. Five times, he’s thrown for at least three touchdowns in a game.
Standing at 6’6,” and weighing 238 pounds, his measurements scream Joe Flacco. But while he’s certainly not as polished as the Super-Bowl-winning signal-caller, Frohnapfel has demonstrated raw talent and proven success in an offensive system that requires a disciplined downfield passing attack.
His quarterback coach, Todd Krueger surprisingly told me that Frohnapfel is a near-completely self-taught passer. Krueger has been working with the UMASS quarterback for the last pair of months as the first private coach Frohnapfel has ever trained with.
“What I like about him is that he’s really coachable, he’s really driven,” Krueger said. “The feedback was that he had to work on his footwork and do it more consistently, and he has an elongated throwing motion. So we’ve been working on footwork and quickening and shorting his throwing motion.”
He also noted that the progress has been tremendous. It took just five weeks to lay the foundation for a change in Frohnapfel’s throwing motion, a testament to one of the most important traits a quarterback can have – the ability to quickly adapt.
His future career in football starts tomorrow at UMASS, where he’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate his talent in front of visiting scouts.
“They’re looking for guys that they think can potentially start in a few years for them, and I want to show them that I have the arm strength, the accuracy to step into those things,” said Frohnapfel.
Last year, Gerry Ahern of USA Today Sports did an article calling him “the best quarterback you’ve never heard of.” How does Frohnapfel feel about that?
“Coming from Marshall University first, I went to UMASS, and I kinda was always under the radar. At UMASS, we really didn’t win a ton of games while I was here,” he started. “And so, even though there were some times I put up some big numbers for a quarterback, it really wasn’t talked about as much. It’s an uphill battle at times, trying to say hey, ‘I’m up here in the Northeast and I think I’m doing pretty well.’ But that’s just kind of the way it goes and it shows just how important this Pro Day is for me.”
Modesty aside, ‘Pretty well’ is, at times, an understatement for Frohnapfel. He’s already won numerous awards recognizing his success in the Mid-American Conference as a player, a scholar, and a dedicated member of the community.
His accuracy, in itself, is deceiving. Although his accuracy hovered between 55.0 and 56.0 percent in his two years at UMASS, the college’s pro-style offense certainly played a role in skewing those numbers. Simply put, when a quarterback is consistently taking shots downfield, you’re always going to compromise accuracy for chunk-gain potential.
“The reason why I love UMASS so much was because although at times you’re throwing dig routes, you’re throwing tons of corner routes, you’re throwing routes that, by nature, are more difficult to complete, most teams aren’t prepared to cover those routes,” he said.
“At times, you’re taking three shots on twenty-yard passes and you might complete one of them, but that’s still 20 yards. They’re putting the ball in your hands saying ‘Okay, we’re going on a ten-play drive and we’re going to throw the ball every single play.’ I mean, as a quarterback. How could you not like that?”
Over time, teams dared UMASS to throw the ball, repeatedly turning to Cover 2 and Cover 3 schemes, and as Frohnapfel so succinctly put it: “Hey we’re still going to throw it. This is our offense and this is what we do.”
When asked to describe himself in three words, he turned to a phrase: “way too competitive.”
NFL teams, take note.