With his big performance on Saturday in an upset victory over No. 17-ranked Virginia Tech, Eric Dungey overcame injury and steep odds from Vegas to top the Hokies 31-17. He also became the first Syracuse quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. So it’s about time we start talking about just how to rate him.
I said on Twitter yesterday that while I’m still not exactly sure just how good a quarterback Eric Dungey is, he’s one hell of a football player, in general. He’s entertaining, he’s exciting, he’s tough, and he’s just a flat out gamer. But I’m still trying to figure out if he’s actually a “great” quarterback.
It’s hard to assess Dungey fairly, because he’s obviously got a history of getting banged up and gutting it out. He may very well have been dealing with some nagging injuries we don’t even know about. Remember a couple weeks ago when he was throwing wounded ducks from time to time, but we ignored it because he completed enough of them that the numbers were still phenomenal?
As it stands right now, Dungey is up to fourth in the nation in passing yards, with 2,197 on the year. That’s already good for the eighth best single season total in Syracuse history, and we’re talking about a true sophomore here. Donovan McNabb, for comparison, didn’t break 2,000 yards passing until his junior year.
Obviously, that’s apples and…excuse the pun…oranges. McNabb played in a run-heavy option attack and only threw the ball 422 times in those first two seasons, combined. Dungey, meanwhile, has already thrown the ball 308 times this season, through seven games. The most passes McNabb threw in a year was 265, as a junior, when he passed for a career-high 2,488 yards.
Then again, Dungey has already scored 11 rushing touchdowns in his young career, which has consisted of only 15 games so far. McNabb, in 45 career games, rushed for 19 touchdowns. I know – I’m amazed, too. The greatest running QB in Syracuse history is already having his rushing totals challenged by a true sophomore in a pass-heavy offense (McNabb rushed for 1,561 yards in his career; Dungey has 586 and counting).
Dungey does a lot of things well. He’s a gifted athlete, he’s a cerebral player, and he’s a team leader. At this stage in his career, despite the enormous passing numbers this season, I think most people would agree he misses on a few too many makable throws for us to call him a top-level passer, though obviously as he continues to work with Sean Lewis and Dino Babers, and his mechanics improve (as well as his offensive line), his efficiency as a passer will get better. So will his accuracy, which currently sits at 62.3% on the year. A fine number – and one that McNabb only matched as a senior – but I think it’s fair to assume that both Dungey and Babers would tell you it’s not quite where it should be to really make this offense sing.
But all of that will come with time. As the offensive line and running game improve, Dungey won’t be relied on so much in the ground game, and he won’t be forced to scramble. As more weapons get added to the roster – and some of those future receiver weapons were in attendance yesterday to watch the upset victory, by the way – he’ll have more threats to help him out down the field.
With 3,495 career passing yards already, in only 15 games, Dungey is already eighth in Syracuse history. With five games left in the season, he should realistically vault over Troy Nunes (7th – 4,578) and RJ Anderson (6th – 4,698) by the end of 2016. And then next year, he should easily jump over Perry Patterson (5th – 5,220…and yes, I’m just as amazed as you are) and Don McPherson (4th – 5,812), with a chance to crack the top three in Syracuse history.
I’ve been on the Eric Dungey bandwagon since before he even set foot on the Syracuse campus, and nope, I don’t mind patting myself on the back over and over and over again for that one.
Which is why I’m more confused than anyone when I sit here wondering exactly how good a quarterback Eric Dungey actually is. It dawned on me earlier today that, while a lot of people have compared him to Aaron Rodgers, that’s not particularly accurate. Rodgers has a once in a generation arm, with strength, zip, and pinpoint accuracy. That’s not really a fair comparison.
Instead, the comparison I think people should be making is to Jake Plummer, back in his Arizona State days. Dungey’s a far more accurate passer than the Snake was in college, but otherwise they play a similar style. They throw caution to the wind, put their bodies on the line, and find ways to just make plays. Not many people would call Plummer a “great” quarterback, and at this point, I’m not sure you could realistically give Dungey that label, either.
But there’s still plenty of time for him to become a great quarterback. For now, though, let’s just appreciate what he is: a great football player.