For months now, we've been previewing the Syracuse Orange football season like it's just around the corner. Well... now it sort of is. As we've done in years' past, we'll preview a different SU position group each week. Last week was the coaching staff. This week:
While the group certainly has experience -- three have started a collegiate game before -- Syracuse's quarterbacks do lack significant depth. Just three are on scholarship, while another two are walk-ons. We had a similar issue last year (and the year before), and SU ended up having to dip pretty far down the depth chart. Hopefully history doesn't repeat itself a third time for the Orange.
Eric Dungey, Sophomore
Thrown into action in week one last year, Dungey performed better than most would assume of a true freshman. He wasn't perfect, but provided a spark at the QB position that's been noticeably absent since the departure of Ryan Nassib after 2012. While his 1,600-plus total yards and 16 TDs were steps in the right direction, his penchant for running (and the staff's failure to protect him) put him at risk. Dungey missed four games with a head injury, and has seemingly been working on his strength all offseason. Dino Babers's offense will also have him making quicker decisions and running less -- which should decrease the hits on the presumed starter in year two. Conceivably, this offense will go as far as Dungey will take it.
Zack Mahoney, Junior
The preferred walk-on certainly proved himself last season. In four starts, Mahoney played both Clemson and LSU close, tallied a win over rival Boston College, and accounted for nine scores despite his lack of scholarship status. This year, he's currently listed second on the depth chart, but that will only continue to be the case if he shows improved passing abilities from last year. Mahoney has experience, clearly, but his skill set was tailored a bit more toward the old offense (he ran for over 150 yards) than the new one (he completed 46 percent of passes in 2015). Hopefully SU won't lean on him as much as they had to last year. If so, this offense's versatility may be tested quickly.
Austin Wilson, (Redshirt) Junior
As Syracuse.com pointed out this spring, Wilson may finally have the offense most suited for his talents. The pure pocket-passer has been tossed around a couple different systems since arriving at Syracuse, and they've yet to be effective. Perhaps Babers's offense, and its emphasis on quick passing decisions, could finally allow him to flourish. He still has arguably the best arm on the team, even if it's proven itself inaccurate in limited play. As mentioned with Mahoney, his place on the depth chart relies on his fit. He's got a leg up there, and could end up second on the depth chart by fall if he shows that arm strength can be relied upon to deliver the ball on-target.
Rex Culpepper, Freshman
Last year, we hoped the freshman QB could redshirt, and that ended up not being the case at all. This year, there's renewed optimism that the latest frosh passer, Rex Culpepper, will get the benefit of sitting back and absorbing for a season without exhausting any eligibility. The Florida product has been on campus since January, so he's had as much time with this offense as his competition at the position. He's also a pretty cerebral guy who already possesses some pretty good size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and even some possible mobility, even if not on Dungey's level. Again, we'd prefer not to see Culpepper on the field in 2016. If another quarterback catastrophe hits, however (please no), it'll be interesting to see if the strong-armed newcomer leaps his more experienced counterparts.
Anthony "Mo" Hasan, Freshman
Premium preferred walk-on Mo Hasan rounds out the quarterback position for SU as he hopes to earn a scholarship spot in the early part of his career. The tall and lanky (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) dual-threat was a late addition to the class of 2016, but one that intrigues from a long-term standpoint. He was a starter at Fort Lauderdale's Dillard High School, so he can obviously play. And while it would seem unlikely that Babers is aggressively going after dual-threat passers, it could add an interesting new wrinkle to his offense -- a theory that Dungey could also put to the test. If Hasan sees the field this fall, something's gone terribly wrong. But wouldn't rule him out as a real option on the depth chart in the future.
So we're all pretty aligned that Dungey's the guy, right? Right. Obviously the biggest question mark for him is whether or not he can stay healthy, a fact that should be assisted by the offense's design. Syracuse has been through a rough couple years at the quarterback position (seven different players have seen some time at QB since the start of 2013), so perhaps this is the end of that vicious cycle.
We saw what Dungey could do in a barely coherent offensive attack last season, where he was largely making things up as he went along. How will he do now with some actual structure and definition to the scheme, and a pretty strict mandate to run less than he did last season? To be determined, of course, but I'm very excited to see what he can potentially do in Babers's system.