The Syracuse offense got off on the wrong foot last year and never turned things around. Now, they are moving on from the old coaching regime and welcoming in the high-octane Dino Babers offense.
Starters Returning: 7/11
Key Losses: QB Terrel Hunt, RB Devante McFarlane, LT Ivan Foy, LG Nick Robinson, RG Rob Trudo, RG Seamus Shanley
Key Returnees: QB Eric Dungey, RB Jordan Fredericks, RB George Morris, RB Ervin Phillips, WR Steve Ishmael, WR Brisly Estime, TE Josh Parris, TE Kendall Moore, TE Cameron MacPherson, C Jason Emerich, RT Omari Palmer
FEI Offense Rank: 78
S&P Offense Rank: 61
S&P Rush Rank: 47
S&P Pass Rank: 71
Turnovers: 18 (9 INT)
Syracuse finally gets to shed its skin from an offense with Scott Shafer as head coach and turn to the exciting scheme of Dino Babers.
Babers comes from the Art Briles coaching tree which means true up-tempo pace (and not just pre-season empty promises) and an emphasis on running the ball efficiently.
The entrance of Babers certainly has some folks believing he'll take Syracuse up a notch or two based on his offensive prowess alone. For our Notre Dame perspective it'll be interesting to see just how much impact he has on this side of the ball in year one, week five of the season.
Dungey Takes Command
Syracuse opened 2015 with long-time quarterback Terrel Hunt behind center but he was injured in the opener and missed the entire season. His appeal for a 6th-year was denied by the NCAA.
So, last fall the Orange turned to freshman Eric Dungey and walk-on JUCO junior Zach Mahoney who each started 7 and 4 games, respectively. With a new head coach there was some scuttlebutt that there'd be a big quarterback competition but it seems Dungey has risen to the top of the group after spring.
Dungey's numbers were far superior to Mahoney so it makes sense. The latter quarterback only completed 46.2% of his passes with a dreadful 4.6 yards per attempt average. There's been some hype surrounding incoming freshman Rex Culpepper so we'll see how he performs once he arrives in the summer.
For his part, Dungey was mildly productive. He threw for 1,298 yards with 11 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions, plus he was second on the team in carries and led the Orange with 5 rushing scores.
Rebuilding the O-Line
Overall, Babers has plenty of tools to work with at least from an experience standpoint. All of Syracuse's pass catchers return and there are several returning starters at running back.
The offensive line looks to be a bit more tricky. Three full-time starters from 2015 are gone which doesn't include Seamus Shanley who started the first 3 games last year, was benched, and hasn't returned to the program.
Jason Emerich returns at center but this spring right tackle Omari Palmer was moved to right guard as former walk-on and redshirt junior Jamar McGloster worked 1st-team on the right edge. On the left edge 5th-year senior JUCO transfer Michael Lasker is leading the way while at left guard redshirt sophomore Aaron Roberts tops the depth chart.
If you look at some of Syracuse's advanced stats their offense doesn't look terrible but some of their traditional stats were abysmal from 2015.
For example: 117th in passing yards per game, 107th in passing yards per attempt, 113th in third down conversions, 123rd in plays from scrimmage of at least 20 yards, 86th in total rushing, and tied for 99th with only 15 rushing touchdowns.
One reason for the discrepancy was that Syracuse played a bunch of good defenses. Out of their 11 FBS opponents all but one were inside the Top 61 of S&P defense. What's more, they faced 8 defenses in the Top 50 and 5 defenses inside the Top 27 S&P rankings.
If Babers can get the offensive line ready to go there's plenty of reason for optimism. I don't know how much we can take from last year in Syracuse when it was a different coaching staff and their season was more or less wrecked once Hunt went down with injury.
Dungey appears like a competent quarterback who should get immediately better while being coached by Babers. From there, so many skill players are back that the Orange have to be better than last year. Maybe not among the top third of the ACC type of improvement but certainly some stats in the 100's of the national rankings are going to be a thing of the past.