Syracuse Orange spring football practice kicked off on Saturday, providing some brief first glimpses of the team for 2018.
Notably, quarterback Eric Dungey was back on the field after missing the last three games of 2017 with a foot injury. Antwan Cordy also returns, now at wide receiver, after missing the last 11 games of last season, and the final 10 games of 2016.
SU head coach Dino Babers talked about both players in a brief media session after practice, particularly discussing Cordy’s position change:
“He’s explosive, he’s quick. For the last two years he hasn’t been able to finish the season on defense. And from a special teams, or an offense or defensive standpoint, we need to get him to be able to finish the season. We need Dungey to finish the season. So we’re trying to maybe move a position and see if we can keep him healthy, so we can have him in October and November, which we haven’t been able to do for the last two years.”
Cordy’s switch to receiver was the most surprising detail of last week’s spring depth chart release, but it’s not going to be a simple act to plug him into this offense. Babers was quick to point out that while Cordy has plenty of athleticism, “he’s got a lot of stuff to learn before he can start to produce for us (on offense).”
One player that won’t have much to learn this year (beyond maybe finding a way to take fewer hits?) is Dungey, who had the longest speaking session of all the players. He talked about how the game has slowed down for him, while the tempo continues to speed up. When asked about his competition on the roster, in players like Tommy DeVito and Rex Culpepper, Dungey actually shifted focus to competition elsewhere. The senior preferred to stack himself up against top quarterbacks nationally instead. One that he mentioned by name was Florida State’s Deondre Francois, who will also be coming back from injury this year.
Babers didn’t hint at whether or not Dungey was “winning” the quarterback job, though he didn’t necessarily have an issue with his most experienced passer accepting the role once again:
“I think the big thing with any quarterback -- because if you’re a starting quarterback for two years in the ACC, you need to be not limiting yourself to the competition on your football team. I think it’s healthy that he looks at himself as a national person, and I’m glad that he compares himself to those other top people in the country.”
By all accounts, they were quick, but also had some rust to knock off. Babers motivated the team, while also taking them to task a bit about some rust. As no one really needs reminding, two straight 4-8 seasons puts plenty of demand on the players and the coaching staff to show marked improvement now in year three.
Linebacker Kielan Whitner spoke after practice as well, and acknowledged the issues from last year. He said that those final few games definitely left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths, and was eager to get back out there and fix it.
We don’t need to rehash how poorly the defense played over the final three games, after a relatively strong effort through the season’s first three quarters. And while we’ll never get to the bottom of the exact reason why things fell apart to the extreme they did, it does appear that everyone involved is anxious to make corrections. Those fixes will be critical to this year’s improvement.
Spring practice continues this Tuesday. The 2018 Syracuse spring game will be held on Friday, April 13.