The Syracuse Orange had their annual spring game on Saturday, and gave the fans quite a show. The offense moved up and down the field at a torrid pace scoring nearly a dozen touchdowns in the nearly two hours spent on the field running plays.
Quarterback Eric Dungey threw for 296 yards on 27-33 passing with seven touchdowns. He did throw an interceptions and fumbled the ball, however. Dontae Strickland, Moe Neal, Jordan Fredericks and George Morris all had big runs as the offense dominated the defense throughout most of Saturday's scrimmage.
The offense got in 155 plays. Afterwards, head coach Dino Babers said the team would "never go that slow again." Dungey called it "half speed."
No score was kept and timer was running. The scrimmage featured the offense starting at their own 20, around midfield and some red zone work as well. Both the offense and defensive rotated starting and second string units while also mixing personnel on occasion.
More detailed notes, stats and observations are as follows:
Dungey: 27-33 passing, 296 yards, 7 TDs
G. Morris: 11 carries, 99 yards, TD
D. Strickland: 12 carries, 84 yards
M. Neal: 15 carries, 76 yards, TD
A. Cornelius: 5 catches, 85 yards, 3 TDs
K. Womack: 5 catches, 82 yards, TD
B. Estime: 5 catches, 68 yards, 2 TDs
S. Ishmael: 4 catches, 55 yards, TD
Offensive & Defensive Line
The starting offensive line was Michael Lasker (LT), Aaron Roberts (LG), Jason Emerich (C), Omari Palmer (RG) and Jamar McGloster (RT). The second string offensive line was Cody Conway (LT), Andrejas Duerig (LG), Taylor Hindy (C), Colin Byrne (RG) and Evan Adams (RT).
Among the starters, Roberts really stood out. He pancaked defenders on multiple occasions and really sustained his blocks. Whether he was crashing into the middle to open a hole, going one-on-one with a defender or getting to the second level, he did everything with ease.
Roberts footwork was strong, he used his hands well and showed a lot of strength when engaged.
Combine that with a strong showing from Palmer, who looks much more natural at guard than he did at tackle last season, and Syracuse has a pair of talented interior linemen. Palmer opened a lot of holes for the running backs with his blocking. He and Emerich worked on several combination blocks that sprung Strickland and Neal for big gains.
McGloster was solid at times, showing improved footwork. He certainly looks the part. He has a big frame, but reaches at defenders sometimes, which gets him beat off the edge. McGloster did not make any huge mistakes, though he was flagged for false starts at least twice.
Lasker was solid in pass protection as well. He kept his defender at bay for most of his reps and seems to be more confident in his assignments.
Colin Byrne was a clear standout on the second team line. He frequently got to the second level and aided running backs picking up big yards. He showed strength, quickness and athleticism throughout Saturday's scrimmage. Very strong showing from him.
Conway also had some moments. He is clearly one of the more athletic linemen on the roster. Conway can crash inside on run plays, get to the second level on screens and seems to be improving his upper body strength. If he continues to develop, there is a lot of upside here.
The starting defensive line was Kenneth Ruff (DE), Chris Slayton (DT), Kayton Samuels (DT) and Hernz Laguerre (DE). The second string was Jake Pickard (DE), Steven Clark (DT), Anthony Giudice (DT) and Trey Dunkelberger (DE).
The top three defensive tackles appear to be far above the others. All three rotated among the top two units and saw a majority of the snaps.
Slayton had a very strong afternoon. He got into the backfield several times to disrupt plays, highlighted by a tackle on Moe Neal as soon as Neal took the handoff. Slayton also had a sack and a few other tackles for loss.
Kayton Samuels got some push against the interior of the line at times, but did not stand out as much as Slayton.
Laguerre was active throughout and made a couple of plays, including a sack on Eric Dungey.
Ruff is still clearly adjusting to the position, but made some plays. He has quickness and strength off the edge, which helped him pick up a sack. He also got into the backfield a couple more times.
Jake Pickard recovered a fumble, had a couple of tackles for no gain or a short loss. He looked solid.
Steven Clark is still the best defensive tackle on the roster according to our Mike McAllister. He plugs the middle the best. The only time the Syracuse running game was met with resistance was when Clark was manning the middle and filling gaps. He also got penetration up the middle a couple of times.
Dunkelberger showed flashes, chasing down Moe Neal on one play and showing the ability to contribute against the run.
Skill Position Notes
Dontae Strickland took first team reps at the running back position. He was also featured on a few passing plays.
Running backs were often seen calling the protections to the offensive line.
Strickland looked very shifty throughout his carries early. He got into the second level quickly. Strickland also showed the ability to break tackles, breaking several on a long gain in the fourth series of the scrimmage.
Eric Dungey was sharp early and throughout most of the scrimmage. He had a couple of over and underthrows on deep balls, but was on target the rest of the time.
Dungey did struggle with some running back exchanges, leading to a couple of fumbles.
Even though quarterbacks could not be tackled, he showed the ability to run with the ball on the zone-read and in scramble situations. Dungey also showed that he is willing to slide, which was a struggle last season.
Quarterbacks followed through on fakes with fake passing motions after handoffs to try to fool the defense.
Cornelius had a big game with those four touchdown catches. He caught the ball in traffic, got behind the secondary and showed strong hands. He was also a strong blocker on bubble screens that set up long gains.
Estime and Dungey clearly have a strong rapport. The two connected on bubble screens and plays down the field.
Ishmael was not targeted as often early, but did receive a few late. He caught a 35-yard touchdown where he adjusted to the ball with two defenders in the area.
Zachary Mahoney was the backup quarterback. He was not as sharp as Dungey, but did show a variety of things including a jump pass at one point. He struggled with accuracy down the field, but did connect on several shorter throws. The backup role seems to be the best fit for him.
True freshman Moe Neal had a big day. He showed quickness and burst through the hole, breakaway speed and elusiveness in the open field. He was used as much as Strickland could end up sharing the load with him during the season.
Neal had two touchdowns during the scrimmage and was very explosive throughout.
Jordan Fredericks was the third running back to see the field. He did not have as much success as the other two, but part of that is due to the third string offensive line not opening up holes. Fredericks did run with power, but did not break long runs as frequently as the others. He ran for 33 yards on nine carries with a touchdown.
Josh Parris and Kendall Moore both contributed as tight ends. Parris was the second tight end to see the field with Moore playing with the starters. Moore was targeted more often and caught a touchdown pass.
Ervin Philips came in during the third series and rotated in and out afterwards. Looks more comfortable playing the slot. He showed strong cutting ability and quickness in and out of his breaks. Philips was elusive in the open field as well.
Austin Wilson was inaccurate when he did attempt passes. They ran a lot of running plays with him at quarterback.
Jacob Hill saw some action, but only as a slot receiver not in the backfield as a running back.
Rex Culpepper showed good chemistry with Kenterius Womack. He mainly focused on the short passing game, but showed some running ability as well. His biggest highlight was a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kenterius Womack with pressure in his face.
Womack was second on the team in receiving yards. His speed is evident as he was able to get behind the defense a couple of times. On his touchdown catch, the cornerback actually had inside position against him. However, Womack leaped and snatched the ball away from the defender, hanging on for the score.
George Morris did not see the field until late, but ended up leading the scrimmage in rushing yards. He displayed a nice combination of quickness and power.
Back Seven Notes
Antwan Cordy had the best play for the defense on the day with a diving interception at the one yard line. Dungey forced the ball into coverage, but Cordy was able to make him pay.
There were numerous missed tackles in the secondary, an area that plagued them during the 2015 season.
The middle was especially vulnerable to the pass, with Dungey hitting open receivers over and over.
Rodney Williams seemed a step slow on his assignments and was beat multiple times.
The Tampa 2 cushion coverage allowed the offense to complete a lot of short passes including screens and slants that picked up solid yardage.
Corey Winfield played well. He gave up a touchdown on a deep ball, but was the most consistent in coverage. He used his recovery speed and length to break up a couple of other passes.
Christopher Fredrick played well in goal line situations. He broke up multiple passes.
Wayne Morgan had the hit of the day early in the first half on a short completion. He played very physical.
Cordell Hudson got spun around on a deep ball on the right side for a touchdown. He did have a pass breakup later on, but was out of position at times as well. Hudson did tackle well, however, finishing with seven.
The middle of the field was exposed on the ground game as well, with the backs having huge lanes to run through. There were missed tackles from the linebackers which contributed to the big gains.
The linebackers did stay at home during read-option plays and flocked to the quarterbacks to prevent big gains.
The linebackers also struggled in coverage at times, but did manage to break up a few passes.
Troy Henderson was a standout among the linebackers. He had seven tackles and showed good instincts.
CuseNation.com's Tim Ferguson, Mike McAllister and Ben Sigel contributed to this report.null