University of Massachusetts football coach Mark Whipple always has had an affinity for developing quarterbacks. Before he returned to the Minutemen in January, replacing the fired Charley Molnar, he last worked as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks coach.
As national signing day came to a close Wednesday, it was no surprise that Whipple was pleased with the 19 recruits that signed their letters of intent, especially since the class was highlighted by Marshall transfer quarterback Blake Frohnapfel.
Frohnapfel, who was a two-year backup to 2012 Conference-USA MVP Rakeem Cato, comes to UMass as a graduate student, and is eligible to play immediately with two years of eligibility remaining.
Frohnapfel was one of two postgraduate transfers, the other former Penn State wide receiver Alex Kenney.
Whipple described Frohnapfel and Kenney as “headline guys that can help us right away.”
“Kenney was a guy that kind of was on board before I got here,” Whipple said. “But he was somebody that I had seen and knew a little bit because my youngest son was at Penn State, so ironically, we had talked about Alex beforehand.
“Blake is just a really good kid and really good player who has experience at Marshall, so it gives us a guy that can compete right away for the quarterback position. Those two guys can make an impact on our program.”
Also signing with UMass was Ross Comis, a highly touted signal-caller from Weirton, W.Va. As a dual-threat quarterback for Madonna High, he led his team to a 14-0 season and a West Virginia Class A championship, and finished with 9,255 yards and 121 TDs.
While Whipple indicated Frohnapfel would be a strong candidate to be the starter, the Minutemen have a solid stable of QBs on the roster.
There’s returning starter A.J. Doyle and backup Todd Stafford, Randall West from Lawrenceville, N.J., who signed Wednesday, and Andrew Verboys, a spring honoree.
“We thought we needed to add competition at every position, and we need guys to compete and I’ve been happy with our guys that are here now,” Whipple said of the depth at quarterback. “You have to fill a class, and it’s always been my philosophy that the best players will play. There will be some good competition there.”
The Minutemen, looking to improve from back-to-back 1-11 records in their first two seasons in the Football Bowl Subdivision, also added depth at the offensive line with four signees, including Liam Porter, a Natick native who played at Boston College and transferred from Dean College. Dan DiNicola, a 6-6 offensive tackle from Walpole (Dexter School), also signed on. Along with Anthony Fernandez, a 6-6 lineman who was a spring honoree, the Minutemen added five recruits to the offensive line.
“I think we’ve got a couple guys that are bigger guys and older guys that are in the mix to compete,” Whipple said. “Fernandez was here, and we’ve got [Ryan] Johnson and Porter, two guys that have played and can groom some of those younger guys. It’s hard to run a program without offensive linemen.”