The Syracuse Orange football team starts their first season under head coach Dino Babers on Friday. Heading into the opener, the quarterback position is one that has a lot of questions despite a returning starter.
Eric Dungey returns as the starter for Syracuse with a brand new offense to learn. The spring provided a start to his learning curve, but his ability to grasp the offense will go a long way towards the success of the Orange this season.
It seems to be a good fit. Dungey showed promise as a true freshman with decision making, accuracy and the ability to make plays in crucial moments. In Dino's system, the ability to make quick reads and accurate throws in both short and intermediate routes is critical.
When he was on the field, there were few questions about Dungey. He has the size, skills and can make plays with his legs. The problem, however, was staying on the field.
Dungey battled injury issues last season, mainly related to taking big hits to the head. He must avoid those and stay on the field this season with big questions behind him. If he plays all 12 regular season games, the offense figures to be more explosive than last season.
While Dungey is the presumed starter, there was a giant question behind him heading into training camp. Or so it seemed.
Zach Mahoney rose to the second spot on the depth chart during last season's camp and held onto that position during the spring. Mahoney earned a scholarship during camp for good reason. He is smart, mobile and is a gamer. He just makes plays as is evidenced by his strong performances against LSU and Clemson last season.
Mahoney, however, struggles with consistent accuracy at times. His arm strength seems to have improved based on what we've seen during training camp. He was never challenged during camp, and the staff feels very comfortable with him running the offense should Dungey miss time.
Behind Mahoney, however, is where things get murky.
Austin Wilson enters his fourth year in the program. While he had fallen down the depth chart previously, a new regime represents a chance at a new start. Wilson has a strong arm and throws a beautiful ball. He is a pure pocket passer but lacks mobility.
Where he has struggled in limited action previously was with decision making. To be fair, that could be inexperience. But it something that has shown up in game action.
Also behind Mahoney is true freshman Rex Culpepper. Culpepper was a big recruiting win for the previous staff. Babers was able to hang onto him, and he enrolled in the spring. That time learning the offense only helps his attempt to learn the offense and prove to be a viable option.
Culpepper is a talented quarterback with a strong arm who can make plays with his feet. He is a highly intelligent football player as well. But all of that was at the high school level. How does it translate to the college level and Babers offense? Especially after missing his entire senior season with an injury?
The most likely option for Culpepper is to redshirt this season and see where things stand heading into 2017.