As we head into the 2016 season, most of what we know is that we don’t know much yet. Fall camp has only just gotten underway, and with limited access for the media, it’s impossible to say who’s been standing out on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. But you know what? Screw it. I’m going to say something definitive: Zack Mahoney should get his scholarship.
The walk-on QB was pressed into service last year and performed vastly better than anyone could have anticipated, throwing for 535 yards with seven touchdowns against just two interceptions. He also added 151 rushing yards and two more scores, all while competing against the likes of LSU and Clemson. Mahoney’s completion percentage was just 46.2%, and there are certainly some legitimate questions about his arm and accuracy, but frankly there’s no doubt in my mind he deserves to be on scholarship.
It’s not just for his on the field stuff, either. Mahoney has been front and center as a leader for the Orange over the past year, helping to spearhead the Uplifting Athletes Lift for Life campaign. When members of the team visited a child in the hospital recently, it was Mahoney who gave him a cherished gift that once belonged to Alshon Jeffery.
Anyone who’s paid close attention to the team over the last season and change can see that Mahoney, whatever potential flaws may exist in his game on the field, is the epitome of a team leader. To be perfectly honest, I’ll be stunned if he’s not named a team captain sooner than later. He’s a leader, he’s got moxie, and from what I understand, he’s universally beloved by his teammates.
And getting back to his on the field performance, there’s a reason he emerged from spring ball second on the depth chart, rather than perhaps being jumped by either Austin Wilson or Rex Culpepper. I spoke with someone close to the team recently who told me that, while people probably assume the gap between Eric Dungey and the rest of the QBs is significant, Mahoney was actually a lot closer in performance than you’d think.
In fact, it was indicated to me that Mahoney picked up the new offense remarkably quickly. He also made some pretty substantial strides both physically and in terms of his skill level. Despite assumptions many of us (myself included) made throughout the spring, apparently the battle for the starting QB job was a lot tighter than fans could have suspected.
That is a very good thing. It’s not a knock on Dungey’s performance or progress; it’s a sign that Mahoney made took some very large strides. And it’s also an indicator to me that Mahoney deserves to be awarded a scholarship, sooner than later.
Of course, based on what he’s previously said to Syracuse.com, it’s not a priority for him right now.
“If I’m thinking about a scholarship, I’m probably not thinking about what I need to do on the field,” Mahoney told Nate Mink back in March. “For me, it’s more if I can compete on the field and show what I can do on the field, the scholarship will just naturally come.”
I know I’m not alone in hoping that it comes soon for Zack Mahoney.