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UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel anxious as NFL draft approaches

  • Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel gets set to pass during UMass’ Pro Day on March 24. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel during UMass’ an NFL Pro Day in Amherst, March 24. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Massachusetts quarterback Blake Frohnapfel (7) is eagerly awaiting this week’s NFL draft. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Massachusetts quarterback Blake Frohnapfel looks to pass during the first quarter of UMass’ Nov. 7 game vs. Akron in Foxborough. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • East quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, of Massachusetts-Amherst, during practice for the East West Shrine college football game Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)



@MattVautourDHG
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Leading up to every big moment of his football career, Blake Frohnapfel could always ease any anxiety by preparing more.

Usually that meant watching more film, hunting for one more morsel, one more nugget that would make him just a little better and a little more ready to help his team win.

This week is different. As the former UMass quarterback eagerly anticipates the NFL draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday, there’s nothing he can do. Frohnapfel’s college career is over. The Senior Bowl is in the rearview mirror. His pro day and several private workouts are in the books.

Frohnapfel has done what he can do. Now it’s just waiting.

“You’re basically relying on 32 strangers to determine a big part of your life. You’re basically putting your happiness in the hands of other people,” Frohnapfel said. “They have my film. I’ve done my pro day. I’ve done my workouts. Now it’s just waiting. I tried to put my best foot forward and I’ll see where it takes me.”

Frohnapfel completed 266-of-472 passes for 2,919 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a senior in 2015. ESPN and CBS both have Frohnapfel as the No. 22 quarterback in the draft. (Seven QBs were drafted in 2015.)

If Frohnapfel gets drafted, it won’t likely happen until Saturday, when rounds four through seven take place. If he’s not among the 253 players chosen, he could sign with a team as an undrafted free agent.

After UMass’ season, Frohnapfel began working with Todd Krueger, a Rhode Island-based quarterbacks coach. While grade-school kids with private QB tutors is common today, it was the first time Frohnapfel, 23, had utilized one.

Krueger, who was a Buffalo Bills eighth-round pick in 1980, has been tutoring players from elementary school to professional hopefuls for the past eight years. He said college and even pro players rarely get time to work on their own form during the season.

“A lot of times in college you’re working on how to beat your opponent, how to beat Bowling Green or Notre Dame and the coaching staff doesn’t work as much on fundamentals or technique,” Krueger said. “Even at the NFL level it’s kind of the same way. It’s more about end results. I talked to Blake and his agent and a bunch of positional scouts about what they thought he needed to work on.”

Krueger said they focused their energy on tightening Frohnapfel’s delivery, making his footwork more consistent and improving his accuracy. He was impressed with the QB’s ability to adapt.

“I could explain something and physically he could do it right away. Not everyone can do that,” he said. “He’s good at that. We worked on shortening his throwing motion and getting his footwork a little more consistent. I wish I would have had a whole year to work with him. He’s improved tremendously since he was at the Senior Bowl.”

Krueger thought Frohnapfel, who’ll graduate from UMass with two master’s degrees next month, would have an advantage because of his intelligence.

“If he can get into camp, that intellectual side will come out. He’s such a fast learner. It’s such a huge part of making the NFL now. The complexity of the playbook is almost like a foreign language,” Krueger said. “At the pro level, it’s very complicated. Each week the game plan totally changed based on who your opponent was. The ability to absorb all of that, you have to be able to assimilate that on a really quick basis.”

Frohnapfel said playing in different systems at Marshall and UMass made him confident in his ability to adapt quickly in a training camp setting. Marshall used the spread offense, while at UMass he played in a pro-style system for former NFL assistant coach Mark Whipple.

“I have the ability to go into a new meeting room and at least have a foundation of knowledge to get into a new playbook,” he said. “That will certainly help me along the way.”

Frohnapfel has put his academic research skills to good use. He’s studied each team, its current quarterbacks and its system. If he’s drafted he’ll know a little more about his new team’s offense, but the studying will be particularly useful if he’s a free agent.

Many teams begin making offers to undrafted rookies even before the seventh round is over. There isn’t a lot of time to weigh choices. Frohnapfel knows which teams are most likely to carry a third quarterback and whose system his skills best translate to.

“I’ve definitely done my research this spring. I’ve watched every team to see what they do,” Frohnapfel said. “I look at who they have playing quarterback now, so if I’m an undrafted free agent, where would I have the best chance of making the roster? There’s a lot of teams with a style where I could go in and it wouldn’t be a problem.”

While some quarterbacks would look at the Canadian Football League, Arena Football or one of the fledgling minor leagues, Frohnapfel is only interested in the NFL.

“Playing in the NFL has always been a dream of mine and I’m going to do whatever I can to do that,” Frohnapfel said.

After starting quarterback, general manager is dream job No. 2. Whether his playing career is over already or if it ends after several more years, he’s hoping to start his front office rise through the scouting department.

All of his predraft experience has giving him a firsthand look at that career.

“I want to work in scouting,” Frohnapfel said. “If you’re trying to be a scout, it’s probably the best networking opportunity you could probably have, talking to a bunch of other scouts. I obviously don’t want to go in and say “Hey if I’m not good enough to play, how about I be a scout for you?’ I’ll leave that in the background. Hopefully years down the road.”

He’ll watch the draft with his family in Amherst, keeping track of which teams that needed quarterbacks picked one.

“I kind of have a checklist in my head of teams I might fit in with. Watching the draft, seeing other quarterbacks go can definitely be kind of weird,” he said. “Having my mom there, she’ll say all of them stink and that I’m better than all of them.”

Krueger expects he’ll land somewhere.

“I think he’ll be fine,” he said. “He definitely has the skill set to play in the NFL.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage