After a mostly dominant 51-41 win over NC State on Saturday, SU football is officially on the up and up. The anticipation and excitement surrounding this team is as high as it’s been in years and for good reason.
The Orange is ranked for the first time in almost two decades (last ranked in 2001) and is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2013. There’s a lot to be liking about this Syracuse football team right now, but there are also some areas that could be better as the Orange look to finish off a tough end to the regular season (#3 Notre Dame and #24 Boston College still await on the horizon). So that leads us to ask: whose stock is up and whose stock is down as we head into the final third of the season?
Eric Dungey (Senior – Lake Oswego, OR)
If we had taken a look at stocks a week ago after SU’s narrow win over UNC, Dungey’s stock would have been decidedly down. He completed just 52% of his passes for 225 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown before being pulled late in the fourth quarter for Tommy DeVito who then went on to throw three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the fourth and overtime, leading SU to a massive double-OT win. Heck, there were even calls for Dungey not to be the starter when the NC State game rolled around this weekend, or for SU to use a two-QB system against the Wolfpack. Needless to say, Dungey quickly silenced the doubters on Saturday.
The senior put together a banner day, completing 71% of his throws for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, not to mention his team-leading 59 yards on the ground which helped him add another score. Down-the-field throws were his big problem against UNC, but the long ball was probably his strength against NC State. He had three touchdowns of at least 20 yards and a crucial 3rd and 21 conversion in the fourth quarter. If there were any qualms about Dungey’s value and/or talents going into the weekend, he squashed them against the Wolfpack and put his stock back on the rise.
Wideouts not named Custis or Butler (Sean Riley, Nykeim Johnson, Taj Harris)
There are two different reasons that Custis and Butler’s stocks are not included in this group. On the Custis end of things, the senior has been consistently good all season and has one of the more neutral stocks on the team. As for Butler, well, we’ll get to him later. Meanwhile, the trio of Riley, Johnson and Harris continue to impress week in and week out and are showing that the wideout position at SU is in good hands for the next few years. Riley had perhaps his best performance of the season against NC State (yes, even better than UConn) when he hauled in 10 catches for 164 yards and was a part of that huge third down conversion. Johnson was on the receiving end of an 82-yard TD in the first quarter and finished the day with 136 yards on seven catches. Harris rounded out the impressive day for the young trio with a 31-yard touchdown of his own to go along with another five catches, totaling 86 yards as he continues to prove he’s one of the most reliable and trustworthy targets on the team. Get excited Orange fans, these wideouts are talented and they’re here to stay for a quite a while.
Ifeatu Melifonwu (Redshirt Freshman – South Grafton, MA)
Going into the season, Iffy Melifonwu wasn’t even on most people’s radars when it came to impact playes. Boy, how the tides have turned. After replacing an injured Chris Fredrick in the North Carolina game, Melifonwu has proven himself to be a fantastic cover corner with incredibly intriguing size. He shut down the Tar Heels’ best receiver in Anthony Ratliff-Williams two weeks ago and followed that up with another impressive performance on Saturday. The Massachusetts native was third on the team in tackles with six against the Wolfpack and also led the way in pass breakups with two. At 6-foot-3 with great athleticism, Melifonwu is putting himself in a position to be SU’s lockdown corner of the future. If you want to invest in the Syracuse defense and Iffy, we suggest you do this:
Iffy Melifonwu stock: pic.twitter.com/Kh0yQJZJlA
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) October 28, 2018
Ryan Guthrie (Senior – Cumming, GA)
If Melifonwu’s stock is the fastest rising on this SU team, then Ryan Guthrie’s is a close second. A week after being named ACC Linebacker of the Week for his performance against UNC, Guthrie wreaked havoc once again against NC State. The Georgia native led all Orange defenders with 8 tackles against the Wolfpack, 1.5 of which were for loss (also leading the team). After getting off to a shaky start at the beginning of the season, Guthrie has shown himself to be perhaps the most consistent part of an admittedly weaker part of the SU defense. It’s unfortunate that he’s only got five games left in the Blue & Orange, but his stock is still very much on the rise.
Tommy DeVito (Redshirt Freshman – Cedar Grove, NJ)
Before everyone starts freaking out, there’s a very specific reason that DeVito’s stock is on a slight decline. That’s because of just how amazing Eric Dungey’s performance on Saturday was. A big part of the reason DeVito’s stock saw such a huge bump after the UNC game was that Dungey had looked so uncomfortable and had played so poorly against Pitt and UNC, and to some extent Clemson. This put DeVito in a place where it looked like he might be the best option at quarterback moving forward, causing his stock to skyrocket as the “answer” to SU’s offensive woes. However, now that Dungey has reasserted himself as the clear top option at QB, it looks like DeVito may have a much smaller role as the season comes to a close and may have to wait just a bit longer to the be “The Guy” at SU’s quarterback position.
Upperclass Running Backs (Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal)
Syracuse might have a top-40 rushing attack in the country, yet the Orange have still only had a single 100-yard performance from a running back this season (Moe Neal vs UConn). There’s just no consistency at the running back position. Neal had a great game against UNC, going for 68 yards on just nine carries, but then this week, he followed it up with only five carries for 17 yards. Something similar happened to Strickland when he carried the ball five times for 61 yards against UConn, only to follow that up with three carries for just two yards the next week against Clemson. Not all the blame can be placed directly on the backs because they gotten inconsistent workloads from week-to-week, but SU is going to have to face some pretty stout defenses in the latter third of the season and Neal and Strickland have got to find ways to be consistent leaders and producers for this team so the offense is a bit less one dimensional.
Devin Butler (Junior – District Heights, MD)
If you thought the disappearance of Neal and Strickland every few games or so was concerning, then you’re really going to be nervous about Butler. Originally thought to be SU’s answer to the graduation of Steve Ishmael, Butler has been nonexistent this season. The junior has just 13 catches through the season’s first eight games, a season-high of just 45 yards (Clemson) and has still yet to find the end zone this year. Butler has shown game in and game out that he’s not a consistent or reliable option at wideout and his stock may be lower than any other player on the team and it continues to plummet as the weeks go on (he had just one catch against UNC and NC State).