Syracuse starts spring ball; QB Eric Dungey healthy again
Syracuse is back on the field after a snowy end to winter, and coach Dino Babers has it a little bit easier the second time around.
''The main thing is basically that everybody knows what they're doing,'' Babers said Monday. ''I really appreciate the speed that practice went at today.''
Babers also appreciated the fact that starting quarterback Eric Dungey is healthy again and back in the lineup.
''He's just a leader,'' Babers said. ''He's a lot more confident. Obviously, his head is fine. He's out there and he's leading our football team. We're always better when Eric is on the field.''
Dungey was ecstatic to be back and hopeful that his junior year will be injury-free. He was knocked out in the first quarter at eventual national champion Clemson last November after a hard hit to the head/shoulder area by linebacker Dorian O'Daniel. Dungey, who was leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing yards and completions per game, was ruled out of the game by the Orange training staff and never took another snap. He ended up missing the final three games of the season after undergoing tests. Results of those tests were kept confidential .
Dungey, listed at 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds this spring, also missed four games in 2015, suffering at least one concussion from a vicious hit early in the season against Central Michigan.
All of that was in the rearview mirror on Tuesday.
''I feel a lot more comfortable,'' Dungey said. ''Just trying to get other guys on board who aren't used to the offense, still trying to learn the offense more and more every day. It's definitely been a lot better than last year's first spring ball.''
Dungey quickly seemed to grasp the new up-tempo game that Babers began installing after replacing Scott Shafer. He set a school single-season record, averaging 297.7 passing yards per game last fall, and despite his absence late in the season, his 2,679 yards were a school record for a sophomore quarterback.
Overall in the first year under Babers, the Orange amassed 5,290 yards offensively, the second-highest total in the 127-year history of the program. Syracuse averaged 440.8 total yards per game but allowed 501 as opponents averaged 38.6 points per game.
The Orange, which finished 4-8 last year, return 21 starters - 10 on defense, nine on offense, plus kicker Cole Murphy and punter Sterling Hofrichter. That's the most of any Football Bowl Subdivision school.
Gone are two star receivers - Amba Etta-Tawo and Brisly Estime - and cornerback Corey Winfield. Etta-Tawo, who had 94 catches for 1,482 yards and a school record-tying 14 TDs to lead the team in scoring (84 points), participated in Syracuse's pro day on Monday.
One of a dozen former Syracuse players to take part, Etta-Tawo clocked a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, bettering his time of 4.49 at the NFL scouting combine. His time Monday would have placed third among receivers at the combine, behind only Washington's John Ross (4.22) and Ohio State's Curtis Samuel (4.33). Etta-Tawo also improved upon his result in the vertical jump with a leap of 33 inches.
Estime, who last season led the nation in punt return average (17.7), turned in a 4.4 time in the 40, which would have placed him in the top five among wideouts at the combine. He met with several teams after the workout.
Former cornerback Julian Whigham, who spent time last year with the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers, also participated, hoping for another shot in the NFL. Whigham recorded the day's top result in the vertical jump for the second year in a row, with a leap of 38 inches.
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