One week of spring football practice is in the books for the Syracuse Orange, and coach Dino Babers has done some tweaking.
Foremost among the changes involves standout safety Antwan Cordy, who is now catching passes instead of trying to deflect or intercept them. The hard-hitting Cordy, who has missed 21 of Syracuse's last 24 games with forearm and lower-leg injuries, has switched to wide receiver because Babers wants the redshirt senior around for more than a few snaps in the fall.
“We need to get him to finish the season,” said Babers, starting his third year at the helm.
It’s going to take time to adjust.
“Antwan doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Babers said. “He’s still a little banged-up. I think he’s good, but he’s got a lot of stuff to learn.”
Syracuse finished 4-8 for the third straight time in 2017, stumbling to a lackluster finish after upsetting No. 2 Clemson at home in mid-October. That victory, the most important of Babers’ coaching career, was followed by five straight losses that put a serious damper on a season that began with much hope.
Much of that good feeling was pinned on the shoulders of quarterback Eric Dungey, who suffered a leg injury that sent him to the sidelines for the final three games of last season. He has yet to come close to playing a full slate _ concussion issues forced him to miss eight games his first two years.
Still, there’s no question that Dungey remains No. 1 despite rave reviews for the next guy in line _ Tommy DeVito. The redshirt freshman connected with Michigan State transfer Trishton Jackson on a deep throw during a 2.5-hour session in full pads on Sunday inside Ensley Athletic Center.
Don't expect a two-quarterback system. Dungey is healthy again and has put on another 10 pounds of muscle. He now looks more like a linebacker at 6-foot-4 and nearly 230 pounds as he prepares for his final season in Orange.
Dino Babers was then asked about the two-quarterback system he ran while he was OC at Arizona. "We would never consider doing something like that (here) unless the production would stay that high." pic.twitter.com/w7zuqS9FrW
— Chris Thomsen (@ChrisFThomsen) March 4, 2018
“I’m working against ... some of the best quarterbacks in the nation, so that’s the goal I’m setting right now," Dungey said. “I’m just trying to attack everybody else in the nation.”
When he’s been healthy, Dungey has excelled. He’s the only active FBS quarterback in the country with 6,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. That he’s not looking over his shoulder in spring ball is a good thing.
“You need to be not limiting yourself to the competition on your team,” Babers said. “I think that it's healthy that he looks at himself as a national person. I’m glad that he compared himself to the other top people in the country.”
The biggest void for Babers to fill is on the defensive side of the ball. The team’s top two tacklers _ linebackers Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin combined for 200 stops last season_ are getting ready to show off their skills at the Orange’s pro day next week.
Among those in line to replace them is senior Kielan Whitner, who’s spent time at both linebacker and safety.