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September 16, 2020
Published on October 17, 2017 at 10:55 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Steve Ishmael on a fly route. Dontae Strickland via a screen pass. Ervin Philips across the middle.Eric Dungey pinpointed just about every throw in a quarterback’s arsenal Friday night during Syracuse’s upset over the defending national champion Clemson Tigers. He worked a clinic of fake handoffs, quick releases and defensive back look-offs, sometimes when forced out of the pocket.On Monday, SU head coach Dino Babers said Dungey has been so potent and accurate throwing on the run this year that defenses ought to consider containing him, intentionally.“It’s one of his most dangerous positions,” Babers said. “He’s so good throwing on the run out of the pocket that from a defensive standpoint, you almost have to say, ‘Do we even want him to be able to do this? Do we tell our guys to do something to force him to throw from the pocket because he’s that dynamic when he gets outside of the pocket?’ I wouldn’t be surprised if some defense takes that philosophy.”At some point, an opposing defensive coordinator may try just that. Dungey, Syracuse’s (4-3, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) 6-foot-4 junior signal-caller, is not only stitching together his best season yet, but he’s more accurate with his throws, methodically tossing the ball around the field. Even when the cracks show on Syracuse’s offensive line, Dungey has improvised to both sides of the field, mostly his right, to lengthen plays that break down.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat skillset earned him Co-ACC Offensive Back of the Week honors for his outing against Clemson, and it figures to be a main variable in whether the SU offense clicks over the remaining five games on the schedule. Andy Mendes | Digital Design Editor A year ago, Dungey increased every single significant statistical category from the season prior, including raising his 60-percent completion rate to 64.8, 13th in the country. He showed accuracy and an ability to throw on the run as Syracuse went 4-4 during starts that he finished.If he stays healthy this year, Dungey should cruise past his 2016 numbers in touchdown passes and total yards. He’s averaging nearly 42 passing attempts per game in Babers’ no-huddle system.Fast offenses mean a greater quantity of throws, providing more chances to throw balls away or into the hands of the defense. But after four consecutive games with an interception, Dungey has gone the past two games turnover-free.“I feel a lot better with my accuracy,” Dungey said. “At times, I’m throwing the ball away and all of that stuff, but when I’m able to stand in there and really be comfortable in that pocket, it feels good.”Over his past three games, Dungey has connected on 62.6 percent of his attempts and thrown only two interceptions on 131 throws. He moved to fourth in SU’s all-time passing list. Combining efficiency and explosiveness, he has run for eight touchdowns and thrown for 12 more, including three aerial scores against Clemson.Against top pass rushes, including Clemson, North Carolina State and LSU, the SU run game has struggled. To compensate, the pass game needs to minimize mistakes via short, high-percentage passes, the nucleus of Babers’ system. For the most part, Dungey has increased arm strength and power without sacrificing ball placement.“I can really just credit Eric Dungey for every time he puts the ball on me, it’s in a great spot,” junior tight end Ravian Pierce said.As accurate as Dungey has been, he wasn’t exactly on point early in the season. He exemplifies a take-no-risk attitude with his legs — Dungey leads Syracuse in rushing — but can sometimes show flashes of antsiness. If he’s shown a weakness, it comes against blitz-heavy defenses. Middle Tennessee State, LSU and NC State each forced Dungey out of his comfort zone and each picked him off.Trent Dilfer, a former ESPN analyst and Super Bowl-winning quarterback, said Dungey’s greatest asset may be his ability to routinely hit on short throws. He doesn’t have the arm strength that pops like top NFL prospects, he said, but Dungey makes up for it with athleticism and finesse that helps when trying to complete throws on the run.“He’s a really good athlete and a longer kid who has some natural length to him,” said Dilfer, who evaluated Dungey for the Elite 11. “He’s a kid I liked and maybe has a higher ceiling than we thought he had.”That length, Dilfer said, provides Dungey the opportunity to stretch it out with a relatively easy arm motion. Rex Culpepper, a Syracuse backup quarterback and Dungey’s roommate, credited Dungey’s foresight. While his mechanics are fluid, Dungey is reading defenses and deciding the side of the field with which to work early, buying him an extra split-second of time to complete throws on time. Early detection of what the defense plans to do slows down plays, Culpepper said, allowing him to see plays before they progress and hit targets.Zack Mahoney, Syracuse’s second-string QB, said Dungey’s footwork has “really jumped off to me.” A year ago, Dungey was still figuring out the offense. Now, his feet have provided the groundwork on which his accuracy depends.“He kind of looks like a dancer,” Mahoney said. “I say that with the utmost respect. Everything he hits is so fast and so precise that it’s allowed him to be even more accurate than he was last year. It helps him keep everything aligned.”Syracuse faces another dominant front seven in Miami on Saturday, followed by a bout two weeks later at preseason Top 25 opponent Florida State. As strong defenses vary their schemes and come on fast, Syracuse’s motor rests on Dungey and how accurate he will be.“The offense is going to go as far as he goes,” sophomore running back Moe Neal said. “He’s the driver of this race car.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+