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The Evolution of Eric Dungey

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Once given the opportunity, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was quick to make an impact.

My biggest strength is my competitive nature. I just have to win. Losing is the worst thing I can imagine.
~Eric Dungey

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey is now a household name, widely appreciated and recognized for his talent and ability. That wasn't always the case. The Oregon-native is now considered one of the top quarterbacks in all of college football. Dungey's profile is one he has worked hard for, a platform he has earned with production. 

In an injured-shortened season, Dungey had a number of remarkable efforts: 355 yards on 85% passing against Colgate, 407 yards at UConn, 363 yards versus Notre Dame and, most impressively, a 32-of-38 passing performance with 434 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Boston College. Dungey, already, owns ten school records and is the Orange's career leader in passing yards per game and total yards per game. 

Dungey was not heavily recruited out of high school, though he obviously ended up with a great situation at Syracuse. Being under-appreciated is a motivation that Dungey carries with him to this day.   

"It's just kind of the chip on my shoulder," Dungey explained. "I felt like, back in high school, I got three stars, or whatever, at a 7-on-7 event that I did during basketball season, and I hadn't thrown a football in months."

In addition to impressive physical skills that are now on display for the nation to see, part of what makes Dungey successful are the talents that are more difficult to measure.

"I think the most important thing is are you a gamer, how do you do in the games, how do you compete? You can measure all the 40 times and see who's the strongest, but if you're not performing in the games then what's the point?" Dungey asked.

Once given the opportunity, Dungey was quick to make an impact. He, following an unfortunate injury to starter Terrel Hunt, stepped into the lineup and promptly threw a 32-yard touchdown strike on his very first college throw. Dungey began his career with eleven scores compared to just one interception. In his first year, Dungey also ran for five touchdowns, including a highlight-reel hurdle against Virginia.

Poise, for Dungey, grew with playing time.

"I think confidence is one of the most important things you can have. Coming out of high school, I didn't have much confidence in myself just because I was under-recruited," he acknowledged. "I got to Syracuse and started working and started to build some confidence in myself, like, 'I can play with you, I can play with these guys'. Once I started playing with confidence, I realized I had a lot more success."

This fall, Dungey will be one of the premier signal callers in the ACC. In 2016, he ranked second in the league with 297.7 passing yards per game, throwing 15 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions and adding six more scores on the ground. Now healthy, Dungey is ready for a banner season. Some have even mentioned his name and the Heisman Trophy in the same sentence.  

Dungey's skill set seems like a perfect fit for the spread attack of second-year head Dino Babers. Syracuse ranked in the top half of the league in total offense a season ago, rate of production which Dungey believes is only set to improve. 

"I expect a lot more cohesion," he nodded. "The first year under any head coach there's always that learning curb. Everyone knows what to expect this year and is a little more comfortable with the offense."

When the Orange are in rhythm, their offense is quite tough to stop, a notion Babers' track record speaks to. Year one to year two at Bowling Green, the Falcons jumped from 44th in 2014 to 4th in 2015 in the nation in total offense, ranking 5th in the country in passing. Syracuse, just for point of reference, was 42nd in college football last fall.   

The number Dungey most hopes will rise is the team's overall win total. 

"I don't really see the box score very much. It's cool doing that," he stated of his statistics, "but as long as we're winning that's all I care about."

The ACC Atlantic Division might be the nation's best. Dungey and the Orange will face defending national champion Clemson, 2013 national champion Florida State, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and, as if that wasn't enough, play at Miami from the ACC Coastal Division and at LSU non-conference. Syracuse will face six of the game's top 31 defenses and three of the top four team leaders in sacks from this past season.

Those challenges will bring out the best in a player who has a history of proving doubters wrong.

"My biggest strength is my competitive nature. I just have to win. Losing is the worst thing I can imagine," Dungey concluded. "I just try to do everything I can to win."

Perhaps some didn't see Dungey coming. Everyone sees him now.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports