It's odd to think about how the Massachusetts Minutemen was a laughing stock just two short years ago.
Coming off two wins total in two seasons and having their coach fired for a myriad of reasons (including having players wrestle in the snow), things were bad for the Minutemen. Finding out that they would no longer be in the MAC come 2016 turned things bad to worse. It was looking like the detractors of the FBS move were going to get their due. Now, we talk about the Minutemen being a dark horse for the MAC Championship. With due respect to coach Mark Whipple, the credit for this turnaround falls on the shoulders of one player: Blake Frohnapfel.
To say that Blake Frohnapfel is the MVP of this team is the understatement of the century. In 2013, the Minutemen were barely able to have 150 yards through the air. Their touchdown to interception ratio was 1:2. In 2014, without a summer camp, then-junior Blake Frohnapfel managed over 330 yards a game with a touchdown to interception ratio of 2.3:1. Despite missing the final two games of the season, Frohnapfel was second in the MAC with 3,345 yards through the air, just 100 yards off the leader Zach Terrell.
The scary thing is that Frohnapfel should only get better. 2014 was the first year that Frohnapfel played a full college season, having sat at Marshall behind Rakeem Cato. As a result of being a grad transfer, Frohnapfel did not have spring practices with the team. With a tough non-conference slate and a learning period with his receivers, Frohnapfel struggled to adjust, finally hitting his stride in MAC play. Now, with a full year under his belt and a strong connection with his receivers (including the supremely talented Tajae Sharpe), Frohnapfel should be on another level. Early talks out of camp talk about its not about learning the system, but about directing people where he wants to go. Frohnpafel went from transfer quarterback to team leader.
UMass is now a talking point for all the right reasons. Bleacher report named Tajae Sharpe and Blake Frohnapfel one of the top QB-WR duos. USA Today called him the best QB you've never heard of (though many MAC teams have heard of him and have nightmares of him). He's on every watch list available: The Davey O'Brien, The Manning Award, The Wueffel Trophy. Phil Steele named him the preseaon first team All-MAC quarterback. So did AtheonSports. What once was a position of weakness for the Minutemen is now a position of expected greatness.
So what's possible for Blake Frohnapfel this season? 4,000 yards isn't out of the question, he was only 655 away last season and he averaged 330 a game. Either is 30 touchdowns. Maybe even a MAC Championship. If last season was Frohnapfel's coming out party, 2015 is the year he makes the league his own.