Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers talked to the media on Wednesday morning at the ACC coaches teleconference. Coming off an eventful week one victory at Western Michigan, he was fairly positive about the state of the team. Without further ado, let’s get to it...
Moe Neal, workhorse running back?
One of the many surprises from week one was that junior running back Moe Neal totaled almost 30 carries against WMU.
Known mainly for his speed and explosiveness on the edge, it was encouraging to see him show the ability to run between the tackles. Even though he only averaged 2.9 yards per carry, he scored two touchdowns and kept the defense off balance so senior quarterback Eric Dungey could torch the defense with his legs. Babers concurred, but also noted that senior running back Dontae Strickland may see some of those carries in the future.
“I think the most important thing between both of those backs is they didn’t turn the football over,” Babers said. “They gave us an opportunity to continue to pound. They didn’t turn the ball over. There were some tough runs. I want to say both of them had receptions, which was good for the throwing game, see their hands coming out of the backfield. They did a fabulous job in pass protection. They’re complete backs and will continue to share the load until we can figure out one is a lot better than the other one. If that’s the case, we’ll play them both.”
Apparently, last year, pre-season, and the first game is not enough for Babers to decide who is better. Hopefully, Neal will see more outside carries and receptions so he can display his speed while Strickland takes most of the inside carries.
But having watched Babers’s teams for the last few years, the two running backs seem likely to split more time in similar roles. If anything, this upcoming week against Wagner will probably be more of the same from the Baber’s offense: a two-running back scheme where both players are used as all-purpose backs.
Eric Dungey is the best hope for this team
Of course, we’ve all watched the past few Novembers. SU enters the latter part of the season with optimism and a sense of hope after upsetting a top 25 ranked team. Yet, come November, Dungey is on the sideline and Syracuse can’t muster a win from 38 first half points and a 14 point lead (Yes, I’m still angry).
That all basically comes down to Dungey’s health. When he’s healthy, he’s incredible and the team looks like they’re destined to reach a bowl game. When he’s not, they struggle and can’t muster out one win. Babers obviously sees the same, as he labeled him as one of the best in the nation.
He said, “When you think about what he’s done with his legs in the first football game, what he’s done with his arm in the previous two years, I’m not sure there’s another runner-passer combination in college football that can do some of the things that Eric can do with his arms and his legs.”
Honestly, Babers isn’t wrong (Dungey’s the only returning 6,000/1,000 player in the country). The level of leadership the senior has shown throughout the past few years should establish him as a top quarterback in the nation. The younger quarterbacks may have prettier stats or more wins, but no one has elevated his team each time he steps on the field like Dungey.
(now please keep stepping on the field, healthy, for the next 11 games)