Zach Frazer always envisioned himself starting games at Notre Dame Stadium. Just not as the Connecticut quarterback.
Life takes some funny twists sometimes. As UConn goes to South Bend this week for its first-ever meeting with Notre Dame, it will have a former Golden Domer under center.
Frazer was one of the nation's top recruits when he signed with the Fighting Irish in 2006. ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. had him rated as the No. 6 quarterback in the class, behind only Matthew Stafford, Mitch Mustain, Jevan Snead, Tim Tebow and Jake Locker. He was ranked ahead of Sam Bradford, Greg McElroy and Christian Ponder, among others.
But in the spring after his redshirt year, he was just one of several quarterbacks trying to impress Charlie Weis, including hotshot freshman Jimmy Clausen, Evan Sharpley and Demetrius Jones. After spring practice, Weis announced that Frazer would not be given a chance to compete for the starting job that fall.
Frazer saw the writing on the wall and decided to transfer. (Jones would follow after starting the year at quarterback; he's now a linebacker at Cincinnati).
"Things just didn't work out on the depth chart for him," Weis said this week about Frazer. "It was very cordial the way we handled it. I'm glad to see him playing. I just hope he doesn't play very well this week."
Is Frazer motivated to play well in front of Weis and his old school?
"Yeah, definitely," he said. "I'm definitely excited about it."
But Frazer insists he's not putting too much emphasis on this game. After all, in the bigger picture, the Huskies (4-5) are desperate for a victory.
"We're there to get a win," he said. "It's just another game, though a lot of people are going to be watching. I'm not letting that get to me."
Notre Dame surely has no regrets, since Clausen is playing at an extremely high level. Frazer has had his ups and downs at UConn, but he is back on an upswing right now.
His first significant action came last season, when he led the Huskies to victory at Louisville after starter Tyler Lorenzen got hurt. Frazer then split time at quarterback the rest of the season but threw six interceptions and only two touchdowns.
He beat out Cody Endres for the starting job this season but hurt his knee in the second week against North Carolina. When he healed, he remained the backup until Endres suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on Halloween against Rutgers. Frazer came in that game and threw three picks, giving him seven for the year in just three games. He blames some of that on rustiness.
"When you're away from throwing to the starting wideouts, it's difficult to jump right in and be on the same page," he said. "Having a pass be a little bit behind or a little bit in front can lead to interceptions."
Frazer rebounded to play his best game of the year in a 47-45 loss to Cincinnati. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he didn't have any turnovers.
"I saw a presence and a calmness in that game that we need to see from Zach all the time," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "When he just takes what defense gives you and goes through his progressions and reads, he's proven that he can be very, very good. When Zach has had some of the problems he's had is when he's gone outside what he's supposed to be doing."
The challenge this week, then, is for Frazer not to try and do too much against his old school. He says he doesn't keep in contact much with Clausen or Sharpley, but he still has friends who are Notre Dame offensive linemen and receivers. He'll say hello to them before or after the game, while hoping to whip his old teammates during it.
"I never thought it would play out like this," he said. "But it's exciting to be part of it."