Aug. 19, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - Sweet 16 and never been kissed? How about 6-feet-6 and never been hit?
That was one of the early themes of Marshall's second controlled scrimmage of the preseason football camp Saturday, when No. 2 quarterback Blake Frohnapfel took to the Edwards Stadium turf in a white No. 15 jersey.
Yes, this quarterback was available for hitting. No red "no contact" jersey for him.
Well, Frohnapfel was no tackling dummy. He's also much more than a dropback "Throw-napfel."
The green-clad Thundering Herd defense was licking its chops, but all Frohnapfel did was what he's done throughout August drills ... continue to remove a large question mark at the quarterback spot behind returning sophomore starter Rakeem Cato.
Actually, Frohnapfel did more.
The redshirt freshman quarterback - he hadn't run since high school football at Colonial Forge High in Stafford, Va., and hadn't been hit since the 2010 season there, too - was 12-of-19 passing for 166 yards. He also ran five times for 48 yards, almost 10 per carry.
"Get him at tailback," Herd Coach Doc Holliday quipped.
So, who was more excited about "going live," Frohnapfel or the Herd defense.
"I was awfully excited," Frohnapfel said, "but when I walked out with my white jersey, those (defensive) guys started screaming, `Oh, Froh's live today.'
"Obviously, it's the only chance they'll get to hit me - ever - and they were definitely excited about it."
Frohnapfel was behind Cato, A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan as an MU rookie last season. By late in the season, Graham and Sullivan were gone and Frohnapfel was a No. 2 that Holliday and Co. really didn't want to use and burn a redshirt season.
Then, Frohnapfel had shoulder surgery at the end of the regular season, practicing through pain as long as he could, and wideout Jermaine Kelson
was the emergency backup for the Herd's Beef `O' Brady's Bowl win.
Frohnapfel, whose twin brother, Eric, played tight end as a Herd true freshman last season, was very limited in spring drills because his right (throwing) arm was still into serious recovery. Now, he's ready, able and willing.
And while Cato can run - his 4.71 speed (in the 40 yards) seems underrated - Frohnapfel proved Saturday that he will run ... as he did as a very tall QB running the option for Colonial Forge.
"We did it because he hasn't been hit, no contact all fall, all spring, he never played in a game," said Tony Petersen, the Herd's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who formerly starred at the position for MU. "I'd never send a quarterback into a game without having had contact."
Petersen said he didn't think Frohnapfel's arm was all the way back, but said that also wasn't an issue.
"Blake's never been one of those guys with a bigtime cannon, that's not his arm, but he's got an adequate arm that we can get away with," Petersen said. "And mechanically as long as he's good, we'll be more than all right there.
"Is there still a little left to come back? Probably a little bit, and he's probably a little sore from camp, and that's just camp ... Blake makes good decisions; he's out there playing hard.
"We also wanted to see what he could do with his legs, running the ball, and you could see he can do that. Blake running the ball, that's part of his game."
Frohnapfel, a 225-pounder, said he learned Monday that the coaches planned to have him shed the red jersey for the scrimmage and he was thrilled he'd "get to play real football once in a while."
He wasted no time for his first carry, running an option left with a great fake. Maybe those defensive trash-talkers he heard in pregame forgot who was wearing white for once?
"It's the first time I ran since high school, and I was a little nervous to be honest. It was like, `Do we hit him still, or not? ... It was like a read play, but I kind of predetermined myself what I was going to do, I was probably going to run this, see what I can get."
On a later Frohnapfel rush, instead of playing like a QB, he eschewed a slide for hard contact ... and another yard or two.
"I'm a pretty big kid," he said, "so for me to slide seems a little silly."
Holliday wasn't any more worried about Frohnapfel than the QB himself.
"At some point, you don't want to get a kid in the game when he hasn't been hit, and he hasn't since he's been here," Holliday said. "It was important to get that red shirt off him, and obviously he's athletic guy, different than what Cato is, but he also brings something else to the table.
(If the Herd gets) into a situation where he could play, which could happen, then we have our offense to see what he can do ... He's great kid, extremely tough kid, I've said all along since last year, he's got all the intangibles and he can be a great player for us. No reservations whatsoever. He's good athlete."
Frohnapfel said he embraces the backup job to Cato, and he's enthused about the 2012 season because he and the starter aren't rookies anymore. As for his recovering throwing arm, it's a work in progress, he said.
"Before I hurt it, I felt like it was pretty good," Frohnapfel said. "It was better than it is now, probably 90 percent back. It's getting there; I can feel it every day. Today wasn't my best day throwing, but I feel every day it getting stronger and my range increasing, and it's really exciting get back out here.
"Longer throws, I'm a little hesitant on them, and on deep balls I still find myself making decisions faster to throw it. It's the kind of thing where in a couple of weeks it will get better and better, and I can make all the throws."
The difference a year makes, Frohnapfel said, will indeed make a difference at QB and in the Herd offense.
"One thing is we're just pushing the pace more now, where last year we let the (play) clock run because we were a young team," Frohnapfel said. "Now, we keep going, making decisions fast. Last year, they gave us time to think about it. Now, we've grown up immensely, Cato and me, and that's something that's helped our offense really grow.
"They've expanded the offense. It's something now where we'll see a formation or defensive scheme and we know what plays are coming because we've worked with Coach (Bill) Legg (offensive coordinator).
"It's something where last year, we had no control. We were given a play, we run that play. Now, he gives us opportunity to change things up if we have to, and it puts a little power and responsibility in our hands."
He might have mentioned his feet, too.