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Syracuse football All-21st-Century Team: Quarterbacks and Running Backs

Part one of an exercise in creating a depth chart for the last twenty years of Syracuse football.

Nunes throws pass Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

As hard to believe as it is, the 2019 iteration of the Syracuse Orange football season is already well under way and nearing the mid-point. This season is the 20 year of football being played since Y2K, which was a thing that half of you remember, and half of you are likely confused by. Even scarier, more than half of the current Syracuse team wouldn’t have been born at the turn of the century.

Since the year 2000, there have been some highs and lows for the Orange(men). Mostly, they were lows. However, even in those dark times, there was still a certain quality of athlete that came through Syracuse University. In looking into creating this two-deep, I uncovered a good few names that I had forgotten, or had been lost in the shuffle. Some players whose stats belied what I remembered as horrible teams, and some that overachieved (or underachieved) on their potential when they came onto campus.

I’m hoping out of this that you all will have a bit of the same journey back with the players that I was able to. Seeing the quality that the Orange have had at a few positions, and the sparseness of others, shone a bit of a light onto where Syracuse was and where they’re going. That said, on to the first position, of course, the quarterback.

Quarterback Nominees (listed chronologically):

  • Troy Nunes (1999-2002)
  • RJ Anderson (2000-2003)
  • Greg Paulus (2009)
  • Ryan Nassib (2008-2012)
  • Eric Dungey (2015-2018)

As you can see, there weren’t a plethora of options, but two stand out more than the others. No, not our namesake, the ever-present Troy Nunes. It has to be some combination of Ryan Nassib and Eric Dungey. This duo defined the QB role for Syracuse through the latter half of the decade and rewrote many of the record books in the process.

Ryan Nassib

Ryan Nassib came to campus in 2008, redshirting under then-head coach Greg Robinson (henceforth referred to as GERG). Recruiting Nassib was one of the few good things GERG did on campus. As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Ryan sat behind the aforementioned Greg Paulus, who was underrated for what he did in Orange. And if nothing else, he bought another year of development for his young understudy. Nassib then blossomed as the starter over the next three years to top many of the Syracuse record books.

When he left campus, he was the leader in all time passing yards (9,190), completions (791), single season passing yards, touchdowns, completions, yards per game and total offense. He also neared the top of the charts in a number of other categories. Needless to say he was quite decorated. Nassib was able to bring Syracuse out of the doldrums of the GERG era and place himself at the top of Mount Olympus in the record books.

Eric Dungey

His competition, Eric Dungey, a four year starter at quarterback, was similarly recruited by a coach that quickly was sent packing. Dungey was a Scott Shafer signee in 2015, who blossomed under Dino Babers, in an offense made to put up numbers. A dynamic dual-threat quarterback, he proceeded to redefine what a quarterback could (or should) do, often putting himself in precarious, and often injury-plagued, situations.

As he left campus last season, Dungey etched his name in front of Nassib in the record books, taking over his career passing yards (9,340) mark. He set marks for career passing yards per game (239.5), total offense per game (298.2), plus 300-yard (12 total) and 400-yard (three total) passing games. He also rushed for 1,993 yards and 35 touchdowns over his career. He was responsible for 11,333 yards of offense and 93 touchdowns under center.

The Depth Chart

  1. Eric Dungey
  2. Ryan Nassib

While Nassib was an amazing quarterback while he was on campus, the dual threat and explosiveness of Dungey won out. At present, the All-Century team will have a similar situation to the 2018 squad, with a dual threat option at the helm, and Coach Babers’ system fit as a quarterback sitting behind him. The (purely scientific) polling shows that you still can’t keep Eric Dungey out of the number one spot on a depth chart, graduated or not.

QB’s Voting Breakdown

Steve John Kevin
Steve John Kevin
Eric Dungey Eric Dungey Ryan Nassib
Ryan Nassib Ryan Nassib Eric Dungey

Running Back Nominees:

  • James Mungro (1998-2001)
  • Walter Reyes (2001-2004)
  • Damien Rhodes (2002-2005)
  • Curtis Brinkley (2005-2008)
  • Delone Carter (2006-2009)
  • Jerome Smith (2010-2013)
  • Dontae Strickland (2015-2018)
  • Moe Neal (2016-Present)

Syracuse had plenty of options here at the running back position. From speed demons like Moe Neal to bruisers like Jerome Smith, there were plenty of options in the ground game for the Orange. From last year’s duo of Dontae Strickland and Neal, to the mid-aughts combination of DC3 and Boonah Brinkley, there have been a number of running backs that made their name in Orange.

James Mungro

Mungro was the running back at the turn of the century and snuck onto the list, graduating in 2001. In the fall of 2000, Mungro split time with Dee Brown, and still managed to rush for 797 yards on 115 carries and 7 touchdowns. The duo combined for 1,828 yards, which is the single season Syracuse record for running backs. In 2001, he started every game to the tune of 1,170 yards on 248 carries and 14 touchdowns. That yardage total was good enough for the third best rushing season in Syracuse history.

When Mungro ended his career, he was listed third in career rushing yards with 2,869 yards, good for 6.0 yards per carry. That career yards per carry mark is only behind Ernie Davis (6.6) in the Syracuse books.

Walter Reyes

A three-year starter at running back, Reyes took over when Mungro left for the Indianapolis Colts. In his first year, he managed to start all 12 games, rushed for 1,135 yards, and set the single season Syracuse touchdown mark with 17 rushing scores. He followed that up with a 1,347 yard season, second in Syracuse history, and beat his own mark, scoring 20 rushing touchdowns. As a junior he also ran for 241 yards against USF, good enough for the second-best single game mark. His senior season, he rushed for 803 yards and 7 touchdowns in the nine games he played before what would be a collegiate career ending shoulder injury.

Overall he finished his career at Syracuse and the Orange’s second all time leading rusher with 3,424 yards on the ground and the all time leader in Syracuse rushing touchdowns with 45. While Reyes may have played in a less than stellar era of Syracuse football, he definitively left his mark on the program, including making the number 39 his own, as he wanted to do, turning down the resurrection of the 44 jersey in the process.

Damien Rhodes

The backfield partner of Reyes, Rhodes took on some of the workload in 2004 and had the starting job to himself in 2005. Hailing from Manlius, the local product rushed for 870 yards and 10 touchdowns his junior season, also catching another 246 yards out of the backfield on 18 receptions. While Reyes was a pure runner, Rhodes was able to mix it up, as a receiver out of the backfield. His senior year, he averaged 106.4 all purpose yards per game, with 900 rushing yards and 270 receiving yards.

Rhodes left Syracuse as the ninth all time leading rusher with 2,461 yards and fifth in all purpose yards with 3,972. Also a dynamic kick returner, he finished his career ninth in kick return yardage with 810.

The Depth Chart

  1. Walter Reyes
  2. James Mungro

The undisputed number one at running back, with a unanimous vote was Walter Reyes. It’s understandable. He left campus with next to all time marks in a ton of categories, and did it consistently over his years here. The number two was also unanimous with James Mungro garnering the backup role. Likely Rhodes would get snaps in the team though, on passing downs or if they need a swing out of the backfield, there were few better.

RBs Voting Breakdown

Steve John Kevin
Steve John Kevin
Walter Reyes Walter Reyes Walter Reyes
James Mungro James Mungro James Mungro
Damien Rhodes -- Damien Rhodes