It seems like just a week ago (it was less!) that we wrapped up National Signing Day, and yet, we're already turning the page to the 2016 season. Syracuse Orange football coach Dino Babers has already stated spring practice will start the last week of February this year, so we wanted to start getting out ahead of the big questions that will undoubtedly be on your mind once that time comes.
Syracuse quarterbacks have little depth, but some experience
Who's on campus?
Everybody, actually. You all know Eric Dungey, who was electrifying (1,298 passing yards, 18 total TDs, 341 rushing yards) in just seven starts and eight game appearances. But you also know the issues with him taking unnecessary and career-threatening hits.
Beyond Dungey, Austin Wilson is the only other experienced scholarship quarterback in spring ball, but he's struggled mightily with accuracy and turnovers. Freshman Rex Culpepper is on scholarship, but has only been on campus for a month.
Walk-on Zack "The Officer" Mahoney has a lot more experience than most players in his position (four starts), while fellow walk-on Tyler Gilfus is brand new to campus. Kenterius Womack could also get switched back to QB after spending last year rotating around special teams, wide receiver and defensive back.
Who's arriving this summer?
No one, unless we pull off an unexpected JUCO or grad transfer.
Will Dungey be able to stay healthy?
That shouldn't be a question for the spring sessions (it's unlikely he gets hit at all), but it will impact spring ball nonetheless. Dungey's had at least one concussion if not more already, and along with learning the offense for the fall, his top priority will be protecting himself from further head injuries. When he's not running, the dynamic sophomore certainly has an arm and some height (the weight room size will have to come this offseason). He could fare well in Babers's offensive scheme that involves less option looks -- potentially decreasing his susceptibility for big hits.
Does Austin Wilson have a chance?
Never say never on a Dungey redshirt if it just seems like he needs more time to learn to protect himself and get (and stay) healthy. Wilson has a very good arm, but as mentioned, he has been turnover prone (five interceptions on 58 throws). He got very few chances last year due to scheme, but if he picks the spread up quickly, perhaps he finds a way to turn this into a contest between him and Dungey.
Will we see the Officer on the field?
If this was another year of Tim Lester's offense, perhaps. And he'd probably have that scholarship in-hand too at this point. But without much of an ability to throw the football, and a system that demands it over option looks, he may not be high on Babers's list of candidates. TBD on the scholarship in any case. For now, Mahoney may be best-served as a mentor for the team's young QBs entering the program.
Could Rex Culpepper steal the job?
The pro-style Culpepper is probably more of the typical QB Babers would start, but he doesn't have the valuable experience other passers do. Him being on campus for the spring helps him learn the offense quickly, but expect a redshirt barring injuries -- which would also give him (potentially) two years of starting post-Dungey if all works out for everyone here.
Is Womack a wildcard option?
Babers has yet to address it, so we can't say for sure if he's putting consideration into jack-of-all-trades Kenterius Womack. But if the rest of the depth chart falters and he elects to redshirt both Culpepper and Dungey to help them develop, perhaps the athletic Alabama product stands a chance. Granted, we really haven't seen him throw, since he was switched away from QB early last year. Still, anyone with an ability to throw the ball is probably in the mix for this offense right now, even if Dungey still ends up being the guy when it's all said and done.
As mentioned, this is very likely to be Dungey's job, and if Syracuse has any chance of winning six games against a difficult 2016 schedule, it's probably with him under center. All of that's dependent on his health and well-being, though. And if Babers doesn't have faith in that, then things will get very interesting under center for this team.