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Syracuse Football: 10 Orange Offensive Players to Watch in Spring Practice

These aren't the ONLY players to watch for, but keep an eye on them.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange have gone through four spring practices thus far, and have a bunch more still to go before the 2016 spring football game on April 2. We've been previewing each position group (see: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, offensive line) on the offense, so now we take a look at 10 players worth watching most.

This doesn't make them "better." Or even more likely to start. These are just the 10 that you should probably be keeping an eye on as Syracuse's spring practices keep going:

Eric Dungey, Quarterback

(Obviously) Dungey's exciting 2015 ended with a scary thud, so this spring brings a lot of anxious anticipation for Orange fans looking to see what he can do in a more up-tempo attack. He's already bigger than he was last year, and this spring will be spent getting his passing even more polished from what we saw in the fall. The offensive line's abilities to keep him upright are key, of course. But Dungey's aptitude for this offense could make or break SU's chances to make a bowl this year. The groundwork for that gets laid down this month.

Ervin Philips, Running Back/Wide Receiver

We're still not sure what role Erv will primarily play for this Syracuse offense, though this spring could at least start to shed some light on that. As we've mentioned multiple times, he excelled out of the backfield in 2015 -- just like he did as a running back in 2014 -- and a return to that position (at least sometimes) would be a celebrated move from many of us here at TNIAAM. He's been lining up more with receivers so far. Perhaps that shifts Devante McFarlane's departure.

Dontae Strickland, Running Back/Wide Receiver

Another player whose role may adjust a bit post-McFarlane. Strickland has a ton in common with Erv, and in this offense, though I'd contend he may be a slightly better route runner. At practice yesterday, he talked very briefly about lining up in the backfield again. It would be great to have him really straddle the line between the two positions. We know he has the speed to do well. Now we just need to see him get more chances with the ball.

Steve Ishmael, Wide Receiver

Few stand to benefit more from Dino Babers's offense than the junior wideout Ishmael, who's been woefully underused in the previous offenses installed during his time at SU. Now, he's about to be unleashed on the rest of the ACC. Babers hasn't looked at film from last year, but he assuredly knows what he has on his hands with Ish. Expect him to be used at any passing distance. Of all the things the spring game could display, his abilities and overall versatility might be among the biggest ones.

Jamal Custis, Wide Receiver

I've been begging for Custis to get more opportunities through two years, so maybe this is the season it finally happens. The big, athletic, jump-ball specialist seems to have a natural ability in a part of the field that's frustrated the Orange recently. Now, will Babers use him? Keep an eye on how he's plugged in during spring, and especially come April. Even a few looks near the goal line would be a marked improvement and a much better use of his skills.

Jason Emerich, Center

Syracuse didn't take a lot of snaps directly under center last season, so despite being plenty experienced, there will be an adjustment period getting used to the new way of things. Emerich is perfectly capable, of course. It'll just be interesting to see how quickly/well the adjustment takes for him from the center position.

Kendall Moore, Tight End

As we've mentioned, tight ends aren't used much in this offense. Or at least, not much as pass-catchers. Where the tight end position could still contribute is in terms of pass-blocking. This is where Moore can really shine, provided he can stay on the field. The converted lineman has contributed to a marked uptick in pass-blocking effectiveness when he's in the lineup. The spring could reveal whether or not Babers sees that value add right away.

Cody Conway, Tackle

Conway was the only member of the highly-anticipated 2015 O-line class to see the field last season, and now he might have the inside track at a starting role. Where he becomes an "interesting" player is what he might mean for the rest of the players in that aforementioned 2015 group. They are all similar molds -- large, Midwest-type linemen. If Conway, one of the biggest of them, can succeed in Babers's offense this spring, it's likely all of them can.

Zack Mahoney, Quarterback

The biggest issue for the walk-on QB last year was his ability to throw the ball. He's spent the spring already taking that challenge and working to improve his passing. There are also some scholarships freed up by recent roster attrition... which is the long way to say he'd appear to have an inside track on one of those, as long as he shows the new coaching staff he can be an effective reserve that fits this system enough.

Moe Neal, Wide Receiver

One of three true freshmen in spring camp, Neal could spend the next month making the case for playing right away, especially if he displays the type of speed he did today. That same speed is exactly what this offense runs on. There are plenty of playmakers available if they end up redshirting him for 2016. But he could easily make the case for passing up a few if he takes quickly to the scheme.


How about you? Any names above you disagree with? Any others worth keeping a close eye on through the beginning of April? Share comments below.