Well, we just had some very good news on Sunday with the commitments of Sean Riley and Devon Clarke, only to receive some unfortunate news shortly after each of those prospects pledged to the Syracuse University football team. Lindsey Scott, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana, announced on Twitter that he’s decommitted from the Orange, and that leaves Syracuse painfully thin at the quarterback position.
So now the question is, where will the Orange look for added depth? Eric Dungey returns as the odds on favorite to win the starting job in 2016 after putting up strong numbers in limited action, but that action was limited because the athletic quarterback from Oregon took some vicious hits that leave his future a little bit cloudy with some uncertainty about how many concussions he actually had last season. Dungey threw for 1,298 yards with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions, connecting on 59.7% of his passes while adding 351 rushing yards and five more touchdowns in his injury shortened true freshman season. If he can stay healthy, it’s not likely the QB position will be cause for much concern in 2016…but that could be a big “IF” based on what we saw last year.
Meanwhile, Zack Mahoney will be back again, this time potentially as a scholarship player rather than a walk-on, after performing admirably in emergency QB duty in 2015. Mahoney finished the year with 535 passing yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions in eight appearances (four starts) under center, but connected on just 46.2% of his attempts. He added 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and was one of just two players all year to score two rushing touchdowns against the Clemson defense (along with Heisman winner Derrick Henry).
Austin Wilson will also be back, though at this point it remains to be seen how the former 3-star recruit from Pennsylvania will fit into the rotation. He’ll presumably be behind both Dungey and Mahoney to start, but with a new offense that focuses more on having a quarterback who can throw the ball over a QB who can run, he may well leapfrog Mahoney if he can pick up the Dino Babers system. The question with Wilson has never been his arm, but his decision making and ability to fully grasp various offenses. He throws the ball with a lot of zip and his accuracy is solid, but some of the choices he’s made in spot duty has been suspect.
That brings us to Rex Culpepper, the true freshman who is now the lone QB commit in the 2016 class with Scott out of the equation. Culpepper comes from terrific football genes, as his father, Brad, played in the NFL as a defensive lineman, but the 6-foot-3 signal caller is recovering from a torn ACL that kept him sidelined for the entire 2015 season. He’s an accurate passer with good mobility and plenty of smarts, and there’s obviously a reason he was recruited by the likes of Florida and Ohio State. Culpepper is already on campus and will reportedly be ready to compete in spring practice, so if he’s fully recovered from his injury he could definitely compete for the backup quarterback job.
There is one wild card that could be added to the mix: former QB recruit and current wide receiver Kenterius Womack. The 6-foot-1 dynamic athlete hasn’t completely given up on the idea of being a college quarterback, and in fact would be very open to a move back behind center to try to earn a shot at the position. Womack was switched to wide receiver for a few reasons, most notably because at 6-foot-1 and about 170 pounds he was seen as a bit too small, along with the fact that his throwing mechanics weren’t quite up to par for what Tim Lester wanted last season. Because of those things, with his athleticism and speed the staff decided to move him to receiver.
There’s a pretty good chance he’ll stick at receiver and has a chance to be a breakout player at the position, but keep an eye on the true sophomore from Alabama as spring practice begins. There’s a very realistic chance you might see him getting reps with the quarterbacks, particularly with the decommitment of Scott and, as of right now, no other quarterback prospects really on the radar for 2016 (Devon Modster, a 4-star talent from California, is almost certainly going to commit to UCLA at this point; the distance from home was just too much to overcome).
Syracuse was always going to be lacking in terms of depth and experience at the QB position heading into 2016, but now with the loss of Scott, the Orange will need their luck to change in a big way when it comes to the health of the team’s quarterbacks or things could get ugly in a hurry.