Year two of the Dino Babers offense is underway and Orange is not quite the new fast yet but SU is getting faster. With three games in the books, it’s time to take a deep-dive on each facet of Dino Babers offense and hand out grades for each unit.
It has been a roller coaster first three games of the season for SU’s signal caller Eric Dungey. When he has played well he has looked really good, like in week 1 and 3 when the Orange rolled past CCSU and CMU. However, sandwiched in between those two great performances was a disappointing week two showing against Middle Tennessee State. Dungey only compiled a 35.9 quarterback rating against the Blue Raiders and failed to register a touchdown pass. Outside of that weak performance, the junior has been the heart and soul of the Syracuse offense. He is currently the leading rusher for the Orange, which is partially a knock on SU’s running backs but also proves Dungey has been invaluable to the offensive attack. Overall, the Orange quarterback is off to a solid start to the season. However, if he wants to take that next step, SU’s gunslinger needs to become consistently good, not just occasionally great.
Running Backs: C+
It’s no secret that Syracuse struggles to run the football. While SU’s inexperienced offensive line hasn’t made things easy on the tailbacks, some of the blame still falls on SU’s primary back, Dontae Strickland. Through three games against relatively weak competition, Strickland has averaged just under 3 yards a carry. On top of that low average, the senior has flashed zero explosiveness. Strickland’s longest rush of the year was a measly 10 yard scamper against CCSU. Moe Neal, on the other hand, has shown the ability to make game-changing plays like his 71-yard run this past week against CMU. However, outside of that, the sophomore has struggled to find space between the tackles. On the bright side, both backs have been pretty effective as pass-catchers. But the bottom line is simple: Eric Dungey can’t be SU’s leading rusher at the end of the season. Syracuse needs more efficiency from Strickland and Neal going forward.
Now to perhaps the Orange’s most talented group on offense. Despite a record-shattering start from senior Steve Ishmael, SU’s wideouts have slightly underperformed so far this season. Biletnikoff Award watch list member Erv Philips has yet to find his stride and left Saturday’s game early with an injury. With Philips potentially joining fellow injured wideout Jamal Custis on the sideline, SU is going to need guys like Sean Riley to continue to step up. Riley had a career game last week against MTSU. The shifty sophomore caught four Dungey passes for 80 yards and also had a couple long kickoff returns. With the talented trifecta of Ishmael, Philips, and tight end Ravian Pierce, the expectations for SU’s receivers were very high going into the season. After three games the pass-catchers haven’t fully dazzled but they are still one of the strengths of SU’s roster.
Offensive line: C-
Syracuse’s weakest unit on either side of the ball so far this season has been its young offensive line. Opposing pass-rushers have been getting to Eric Dungey at an alarmingly high rate so far this season, especially against Middle Tennessee State as the Blue Raiders sacked Dungey six times in week two. With Dungey facing constant pressure, there has been a domino effect on the entire Syracuse offense. SU has had a really difficult time producing long pass plays down the field that require time to develop. Additionally, the weak offensive line has struggled to give the Orange half-backs clear running lanes. Due to a lack of downfield passes and consistency in the run-game, Syracuse has been too predictable on offense so far this season. With the daunting ACC schedule looming, the offense needs to become more two-dimensional. An improved offensive line would help the Orange do just that.