Eric Dungey evolves into a smarter quarterback as a rising sophomore

Eric Dungey evolves into a smarter quarterback as a rising sophomore

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 1, 2016 at 2:31 am Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidman Eric Dungey wasn’t supposed to be the starting quarterback after one game. He wasn’t supposed to hurdle defenders, which he did in 2014 and got his high school fined. He wasn’t supposed to dart out of the pocket and take hits to the “upper body,” which sidelined him for four games in 2015.Dungey rarely heeded then-Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer’s advice as a raw first-year signal-caller, but with a change in head coach has come a change in attitude.“Obviously I’ve got to be smarter with my body,” Dungey said.First-year head coach Dino Babers maintains the quarterback competition is still open, but if Dungey retains his first-team spot he’ll play the role of a transformed player. He acknowledges he took “unnecessary” hits. He admits he was too much of a freshman, eager and anxious to make plays on his own. He concedes the immaturity of a statement he made after a triple-overtime loss to Virginia that encompassed the biggest flaw of a freshman who didn’t show many: “They want me sliding and not taking any shots. It’s not really in my nature.”That was after a game in which Dungey hurdled a safety on the goal line for a touchdown while being leveled in the side of the head, a microcosm of the talent and recklessness that complicated a potential bright spot in a lost season. Now, Dungey doesn’t defend his flaws. By design, he’ll be more of a pocket passer in Babers’ offense and Dungey likes it that way. He’s crafted an understanding of the balance between sliding and running, adding an educated dimension to a player whose right arm will likely carry a team that will show off its new-look everything in the spring game on Saturday at 11 a.m.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Any time that the quarterback is in a safer spot in the pocket and he’s not out trying to take on linebackers and D-ends, everyone feels a lot safer,” quarterback Zack Mahoney said.David Salanitri | Staff PhotographerEach time Dungey escaped the pocket after his first head injury, it was only a matter of how cringeworthy the reactions would be, even before the play ended. He built up a reputation that any scramble could end in a bone-crunching hit and put a fledgling career in danger based on the fate of a fellow SU signal-caller. Last year, sophomore quarterback AJ Long was medically disqualified after suffering a third concussion at SU in practice before Syracuse traveled to South Florida.Dungey missed one third of the season because of injury and took four visible shots to the head, one each against Central Michigan, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Louisville. It wasn’t specified how many resulted in concussions, but Dungey didn’t think about potentially being in the same company as Long.This year, the cringes will come far less often. Teammates crack a grin when asked if they’ll feel more comfortable with Dungey in the pocket, not looking like a true freshman in the open field.“To me that’s, ‘Thank God,’” senior offensive lineman Omari Palmer said. “I plan on him staying in the pocket seven, 10 seconds.”On March 8, Palmer said Dungey hadn’t been running as many triple-option sets and read options as he did last year. Two weeks later, Dungey said he was still trying to fine-tune his accuracy in the pocket and put on weight. He’s around 214 pounds now, he said, and has a realistic goal of getting to 220 before the regular season.A bigger, bulkier, more pass-happy quarterback will take the Carrier Dome turf on Saturday and show what he couldn’t for the final three games of last season. Defenders are forbidden from making contact with quarterbacks, so nobody has to worry about Dungey taking another avoidable thunderous hit.But when opponents are trying to do just that come September, Dungey will have a stock-piled knowledge of how to balance running and sliding to go along with a more efficient cannon that could be inaccurate on deep balls last season. He’s developed that repertoire by studying Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.“When we first got here,” Babers said, “we told him that’s somebody he needs to look at.”“There’s no reason to get five yards and take a huge hit rather than just slide and get four yards,” Dungey said.And though that polished arsenal won’t be on full display this weekend, Dungey will show flashes of what’s to come. It’s exactly what he did last year, but he never got to finish a season chock-full of potential.He now has a fresh start and Syracuse has a fresh staff. Babers has predicated his past success on no-huddle offenses, and he’ll look to do the same at Syracuse. And while Dungey may be slowing down, the offense that he’ll likely have the keys to won’t.“Like coach said, ‘Quarterbacks pass the ball, receivers catch the ball, running backs run the ball,’” Dungey said. “It’s not really our job to get hit. That’s really the big thing, just taking care of yourself.” Commentslast_img

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