Countdown to Camp 2017

Countdown to Camp: Orange was the new fast, but can it stay that way?

Jessica Sheldon | Staff Photographer

Junior quarterback Eric Dungey seemed to grow more comfortable with every game in 2016. He had the 12th-most passing yards per game nationally, second in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind only Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, a national champion no less.

Syracuse football’s training camp begins July 30. Every day leading up to camp, The Daily Orange’s football beat writers will take a look at some of the upcoming season’s most pressing storylines, players and position battles. Read more on the Countdown to Camp here.

This time last year, the only thing Syracuse football fans knew about the Dino Babers no-huddle offense boiled down to a five-word phrase, “Orange is the new fast.” Babers promised to bring a new, up-tempo attack to the Carrier Dome.

For the most part, the offense lived up to the billing. It vastly exceeded the previous year’s mark in yards per game (440.8 in 2016 vs. 319.9 in 2015) and SU averaged nearly 17 more plays per game. That’s even after poor performances against Wake Forest, a game played during a hurricane, and against Clemson, a 54-0 loss.

Babers has said his system really kicks into full swing in the middle of the second year. At both Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois, Babers’ two previous stops as a head coach, the offense increased its total yardage per game in the second year of the system. Syracuse’s success this season is predicated on if its offense can make that same leap.

There are reasons to be optimistic. Junior quarterback Eric Dungey seemed to grow more comfortable with every game. He had the 12th-most passing yards per game nationally, second in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind only Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, a national champion. As long as Dungey is on the field, SU should be set at the quarterback position. The obvious question with Dungey, as it’s been the past two seasons, is whether he can stay healthy.

Other question marks creep up after that. While the passing game soared last season, the running attack seemed stuck in neutral for much of the year. And with a still inexperienced offensive line, it’s unclear whether SU will improve there.

Syracuse also will be without a huge piece of last year’s offense, wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. The offense relied on Etta-Tawo because he stretched opposing defenses over the top. In one year, he broke the receiving yards record at SU. Other wide receivers, such as veteran Steve Ishmael and relatively inexperienced players in Jamal Custis and Devin Butler, will need to step up to keep the offense going.

If the Orange can receive those contributions, the offense should take another step forward behind more strong performances by Dungey. Without it, the Babers’ offense trend might not play out in Syracuse.

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