HUNTINGTON — The time has come for the brothers Frohnapfel to become leaders of their football team. They will do so at two different campuses, but they will lead nonetheless.
At Massachusetts, Blake Frohnapfel was named the starting quarterback this week. Back at his old home, Marshall, twin brother Eric Frohnapfel has been considered the top dog at the four-deep tight end position since the end of last season.
The two have much to talk about when they’re able to carve out some spare time.
“Actually, I haven’t talked to him in awhile,” Eric Frohnapfel said. “We’ve been very busy the past couple of days — a couple of text messages, but I sort of expected that. I’m happy for him, I know he earned it.”
Blake’s decision to leave Marshall was purely based on playing time. His destination was based on two factors: a high possibility of playing, and the quality of UMass’ MBA program. (Both Frohnapfels earned bachelor’s degrees in finance in three years.)
Still just a junior eligibility-wise, Blake Frohnapfel has escaped the shadow of Rakeem Cato, but walks into a tough situation. The Minutemen went 1-11 last season, only beating Thundering Herd opening foe Miami (Ohio), and are 2-22 over two seasons.
Improvement isn’t expected, at least from the outside. For example, USA Today’s 1-through-128 countdown put the Minutemen right at No. 128.
Good news for Blake: Mark Whipple has returned to coach at UMass, and he has tutored a nice stable of NFL quarterbacks, led by Ben Roethlisberger. With two years of eligibility, Blake stands to learn Whipple’s pro-style, quarterback-first offense as adeptly and he did at Marshall.
“They open up with Boston College, and they play Penn State this year,” Eric said. “They play Colorado, one other team that’s pretty good [Vanderbilt]. Their out-of-conference schedule is especially hard, and they’re going to sort of start from the bottom.
“I think for Blake, expectations couldn’t be any higher for him, but for the team they’re still pretty low. He’s got his work cut out for him, obviously, and I’m going to be excited to see how he does that season.”
And Eric will certainly be excited about his team, which carries much higher expectations, and the tight-end position — even with Gator Hoskins gone and Devon Johnson moved to running back. Deon-Tay McManus, Joe Woodrum and freshman John Yurachek all have had good camps.
“Gator set a pretty high standard and we’re going to try to live up to that, as a room. It might not just be me; that’s OK,” Eric said. “You just look at his receiving production, especially catching that amount of touchdowns . Our room, because of him, caught the most passes in the nation for tight ends .
“When you look at that, it leaves a hole in our offense: Who’s going to catch all those touchdowns? As a room, we think we can do that, and that’s the biggest thing.”
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With just over a week remaining until the Herd’s Aug. 30 opener, freshman receiver Angelo Jean-Louis is not merely content with making average catches, or really good catches. Twice on Wednesday he crossed the line into stupendous.
First, he reached around cornerback Corey Tindal to snag one underthrown pass, gaining simultaneous possession (those go to the offense). Then he adjusted on another ball, pulling it down and getting a foot inbounds against Darryl Roberts, generally considered the team’s best cover man.
Will Jean-Louis make an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays?
“We’ll hold off on that for now,” said MU coach Doc Holliday. “But he’s a talented guy who may be one of the most consistent guys out here this fall. If he continues that, he’s going to be a good player.”
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The Herd has a 6 a.m. practice today, owing to the school’s Week of Welcome activities. Much later in Charleston, several players will help Kanawha Valley fans “Paint the Capital City Green” at the Embassy Suites.
The event, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is sold out, with more than 480 expected to fill a large ballroom.
“We’ll take about 20 players,” Holliday said. “That will give our fans an opportunity to interact with our players [and] just give us an opportunity to thank our fan base for what they do for us throughout the year — from the indoor facility to coming to the games, everything else that’s involved.”
Reach Doug Smock at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.