Never ones to acknowledge college football’s offseason here, the start of July signals the beginning of season preview materials in earnest. Opponent previews have been going for months, but now we move on to your actual Syracuse Orange position groups for the 2017 season.
Each week, we’ll be profiling one of Dino Babers’s position groups and every player that could make an impact this fall. Kicking things off, we start with:
Syracuse passers accounted for 3,855 yards through the air last season -- good for 15th-best in the country. When the Orange were moving the ball well, it was typically through the air, which is something the squad will want to rectify this season. As much as that relies on running backs and the offensive line, this entire attack still hinges on the QB position (no matter who’s under center).
Eric Dungey, Junior
It feels like just yesterday that the gutsy thrower from Oregon was thrown into action for the first time. Yet, in just two (limited by injury) years, Dungey’s made quite a name for himself at SU. His 3,977 career passing yards are already eighth in school history, and last year’s 2,679 yards were the second-best total by an SU passer. He’s already sixth in career TD passes and owns a host of other single-game records as well. But the story last year, as it was during his freshman campaign, was injuries and his propensity to take some big hits. This is Dungey’s team, and he’s the unquestioned starter. But the next big hit always seems like it’s just around the corner too, for the dual-threat star.
Zack Mahoney, Senior
Once a run-first option QB in Tim Lester’s woe-begotten offensive scheme, Mahoney seemed tepid in his limited early action relieving Dungey last year. But all of that changed in the Pittsburgh game, when he lit up the Panthers secondary for 440 yards and five touchdowns, while taking down numerous Orange records along the way. “The Officer” will be at the ready if called upon. You do have to wonder if he could ever come close to those Pitt numbers again, though.
Rex Culpepper, (Redshirt) Freshman
Taking in the action from the sidelines last year, Culpepper got a nice early dose of college football life while also absorbing Babers’s up-tempo offense at his own pace. You saw some of the benefits of that come the spring game, when the Florida product looked crisp and fluid in his passes (especially compared to everyone else). Culpepper would seem unlikely to get tossed into action this year, especially with Mahoney still around. That said, expect him to challenge for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Tommy DeVito, Freshman
The program savior, according to many Orange fans. The four-star QB is already on campus and has been taking in the system for months via Skype and intensive playbook studies. DeVito came to Syracuse to get an early chance to play, and that very well may come. However, it would probably be beneficial for all parties if he redshirted for 2017 and then took a real crack at the starting gig come 2018 or 2019.
Mo Hasan, (Redshirt) Freshman
Mo’s a walk-on, but an athletic one at that. His very brief appearance in the Syracuse spring game this year featured some impressive scampers and an ability to avoid defenders that even Dungey struggles with at times. Hasan won’t be taking anyone’s job, but could be an interesting addition to a trick play or two.
Clayton Welch, (Redshirt) Sophomore
Welch is a very recent addition to this group, a walk-on out of Butte College in California who possesses some great size (6-foot-5, 223 pounds) and a big arm. While he looks the part of a Power Five quarterback, he’ll need some time to really get to know the up-tempo Orange attack. Despite what looks like some high upside, it’s tough to project any playing time for him this year.
Syracuse’s quarterback position is the deepest it’s been in years, and has a system that will make the most of that talent as well. The key, as always, is for Dungey to remain healthy. If he can do that (hopefully by absorbing hits better), then it’ll be nice to admire this promising group of passers based on their potential.
Dungey’s health is critical to this team making a postseason push, but that doesn’t necessarily stop others from guiding this offense if called upon. Mahoney proved last year that other players can (eventually) run this offense efficiently. With luck, we won’t have to test that theory much this year.