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A.J. Doyle takes over at quarterback for UMass

Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar, right, talks with quarterback A.J. Doyle in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Central Michigan in Foxborough, Mass., Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Central Michigan won 42-21. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar, right, talks with quarterback A.J. Doyle in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Central Michigan in Foxborough, Mass., Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Central Michigan won 42-21. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
(Published in print: Thursday, September 12, 2013)

AMHERST — A.J. Doyle was the first recruit Charley Molnar called when he was hired to coach at the University of Massachusetts. On Wednesday, Molnar called on him to be the team’s starting quarterback.

Doyle takes over for sophomore Mike Wegzyn, who was ineffective in the first two games of the season. Doyle replaced Wegzyn at halftime of Saturday’s loss to Maine. He completed 7-of-17 passes for 62 yards and one touchdown.

“Coming out of the game we just felt like we’re looking for the solution,” Molnar said. “It’s hard to wrap our hands around it exactly. There’s a lot of things that need to be fixed. Some of them are unfixable, so you look for things that maybe you can make corrections on. We felt like maybe a change would energize our offense.”

Molnar refused to let Doyle be interviewed after the announcement.

Saturday will be Doyle’s second career start. Molnar started him in last year’s season finale and he completed 30-of-45 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in a 42-21 loss to Central Michigan at Gillette Stadium.

Wegzyn outplayed him in the spring and preseason to earn the starting job this season.

“Mike had a much better spring than A.J. did. A.J. was battling an (undisclosed) injury not only in the spring, but through the summer,” Molnar said. “Maybe it didn’t give him that chance to compete as well as he could have. As time progressed and that injury has healed, his performance has picked up in practice.”

Molnar said even though Doyle’s performance against Maine wasn’t outstanding, there were things the coaching staff saw that made them optimistic.

“Some of the things we saw in the video (Saturday), even though it wasn’t by any stretch a winning performance by him, he put himself in a position to play. After that and his work over the past couple of days, we felt it was time to make the move,” Molnar said. “When A.J. does get into the game, his performance does pick up. Some guys’ performances stay the same and some do a little bit less when the light’s come on. With A.J., his performance has historically picked up.”

Molnar thought Doyle’s personality might provide a calming influence.

“He brings a totally different mood to the team and a totally different personality, which is awesome. We have two distinctly different guys,” he said. “Mike is excitable, a little more louder, more vocal. A.J. is a little more reserved, maybe a little more steady, just a more steady presence. Maybe our team with all the young guys out there, maybe that will be something they respond to.”

Molnar made it a point to play Doyle in every game last year and this year. He wasn’t sure if he’d give Wegzyn similar playing time.

“It’s something to visit. I’m not ready to say that right now,” Molnar said. “Mike wasn’t the reason that we lost. There’s a million reasons that we lost and it starts with me. I think that changing that position, with it being such a key position, can give us a new identity over the next couple of games.”

The coach was noncommittal about how long a leash Doyle would have.

“We all know playing quarterback is not like playing left guard. It has different attention on it,” Molnar said. “But nevertheless, the guy in that spot has to earn it and keep it week in and week out.”

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