USA TODAY Sports-Rich Barnes

A Rare Breed

Syracuse freshman quarterback Eric Dungey's intelligence and maturity was noticed early on by head coach Scott Shafer

Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer had an inkling that freshman quarterback Eric Dungey had the potential to be something special. Not just when he arrived on campus and started to show flashes of what Syracuse saw as a high school prospect, but through conversations during Dungey’s visit as a recruit.

As is the case with most visits that occur during the season, Dungey watched the Orange practice. But the way he observed and took in everything he was seeing was unlike anything coach Shafer had seen in the past.

”He’s standing there watching practice and I went over and said, ‘what do you think,’” Shafer said. “He said, ‘so coach, Seattle is double slants and Fargo is clear out flats?’ His question or his response to me wasn’t like most young men. Most young men say ‘oh yeah coach this looks good.’ He was like, ‘so you call this, that’ and ‘what coverage are you trying to hit that play against.’ So right then I knew he was a bright young guy who watches the game differently than most young people.”

Fast forward to this summer, and Dungey arrived at Syracuse as a wide-eyed freshman set on making his mark on the football program. Through his hard work and dedication, Dungey was able to master Tim Lester’s offense relatively quickly. So much so that without Terrel Hunt at their disposal, the offense will remain fully in tact, according to coach Shafer.

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It was this intelligence that drew Syracuse to Dungey during the recruiting process.

”When we go out and recruit, that’s one thing we look for with quarterbacks,” Shafer said. “We want young men with high intellect both on and off the field. Eric was a very good student in high school. Took challenging courses and did extremely well. So you knew he was bright and knew how to learn with that type of process. When you have a player that does well with his academics, there’s usually a lot of carry over with him learning how to play the game the way we want. Coach Lester does a real nice job with his learning processes and procedures. For Eric, he’s got very good football IQ.

”One to learn the notebook. Two to understand video and how to look at the video and place himself in the moment. Then on the field, he’s got real good instincts and real good feel for seeing the coverage and coming to the proper side of the field with his reads. Seeing the fronts and understanding the core play may be called to the right but change it to the left. He just does a real nice job with those things. It’s that intellect that we try to recruit and he fits the mold.”

It did not take long for the high intelligence, high football IQ and strong work ethic to join forces on the field. Coach Shafer and the rest of the offensive coaches noticed something special. Playmaking ability combined with a natural ability to play the quarterback position and read opposing defenses.

”Early on in practice, we could see him go through the reads in an extremely quick manner,” Shafer said. “I was extremely impressed with that. Then he would make plays when really his feet weren’t set the way they were supposed to be. From a mechanical point of view, we were like ‘oh boy we’ve got to get his mechanics right.’ But he could make the reads as quick as anybody. Maybe he’s making a read to his left and the coverage shuts down that read. He now has to go to his right.

”He sees it and delivers the pass and makes the completion, even though maybe he has to throw it sidearm because his feet are pointing to the left. So early on, you could see his mental recognition probably in front of his feet following him if you will. Once he got into maybe a week of camp, he had his feet and body position much better. Sometimes he’d come off reads almost too quick without taking a breath, seeing the coverage and then coming back to the other side. His mind and his feet caught up with one another.”

Now Dungey is the guy after Terrel Hunt suffered a torn ACL in the season opener. After being thrown to the wolves in week one, he now has the benefit of a full week of practice as the unquestioned starter. That will only help as Syracuse faces a critical game in week two.

”With Eric moving into the number one quarterback position he’ll get the majority of the reps with the ones,” Shafer said. “He did a nice job, really over the last 10 days prior to Rhode Island, of being locked in to practice. For every four reps that the ones got, he’d get in and get two. He’d get two of six reps. Now he’ll be getting the four. That’ll help him immensely. It’s one thing to see it and to understand it, it’s another to do it and then execute it.

”With repetition, execution goes up. He started off yesterday (Monday) in practice and did a nice job. He’s done a real good job in his preparation up until this point. So I think the reps in general are going to help him a lot.”

Syracuse kicks off with Wake Forest on Saturday at 12:30pm inside the Carrier Dome.


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