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Can Syracuse afford to have Eric Dungey run less?

The quarterback’s health is the key to the Orange’s success, but handcuffing his playing style could also hurt.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Over at the Daily Orange, Sam Fortier wrote a great feature on Syracuse Orange quarterback Eric Dungey’s playing style. In short: the junior says he’ll run less this year, but he also said as much last year. Ends up he averaged even more carries per game in 2016 than he did in 2015. And running was what ultimately ended his season both times.

This offseason, Dungey added more weight (he’s up to 222 pounds, according to the official roster), but didn’t necessarily hit the benchmarks laid out by the strength and conditioning staff either. Around spring, they’d said he’d “never be under 220 pounds again,” yet he’s still closer to that number than the 230 pounds they wanted him at.

Weight is also just one part of the equation. Taking off and running is another. The final piece — protecting himself while carrying the football — seems to be a bigger problem than both. Quarterbacks can run, and they should be a little bit mobile in today’s fast-paced offenses. It’s part of the game, and it’s part of what makes Dungey an excellent player. Therein lies the problem for Syracuse, though. Does telling him not to run remove some of the dynamic aspects of Dungey and this offense?

The Orange were 3-1 when Dungey ran for more than 25 yards (including sack yardage) in 2016, and just 1-4 when he didn’t. SU’s best game of the season -- the 31-17 upset of Virginia Tech at the Carrier Dome — also included 106 yards on the ground from the QB. That said, the team was just 2-5 when he hit the same yardage plateau in 2015. In those cases, the high rushing yardage wasn’t coupled with more passing yards, though.

So what part of Dungey’s game is essential for Syracuse to pull out needed wins this year? Running, to be honest, is inconclusive, though helpful. Passing yardage isn’t a great bar, because the Orange lost two games where he passed for 350 yards last year. Even completion percentage doesn’t work. He completed 60 percent or more of his passes in four losses, while hitting just 53 percent of receivers in the win over the Hokies.

The answer may just be staying upright. Which is part him running less, but more the offensive line protecting him better. SU allowed 3.17 sacks per game last year, which was among the 10 worst figures in the country. Many of those were collected against Dungey, but some games were better than others. The line’s three best contests were against UConn, Virginia Tech and Boston College, and all three of those were wins.

Can Syracuse afford to have Eric Dungey run less? Probably. But maybe the more accurate question is just around whether or not Dungey can get him (in any form) as much as he has in previous seasons.