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Don’t Count Eric Dungey Out

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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A 3-star prospect from Oregon coming out of high school, Dungey faced doubters his entire college career.

This draft season, there isn’t a whole lot of attention going towards Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey. Walter Football ranked the Top 20 quarterbacks available in the 2019 NFL Draft, and Dungey didn’t make the list.

The Syracuse signal caller didn’t make the Top 20 list at Drafttek.com either. At NFL.com, Dungey isn’t even listed as a prospect.

But I’ve learned one thing during my time covering the ACC -- never count out Dungey.

A 3-star prospect from Oregon coming out of high school, Dungey faced doubters his entire college career. In his first three seasons, he failed to finish any of them healthy. As the cliche goes, your best ability is your availability, and that wasn’t in Dungey’s repertoire.

Well, at least until his senior season. While he did leave a couple games with injury, Dungey played in all 13 games and led Syracuse to an impressive, 34-18, victory against old Big East rival West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl.

Halfway through 2018, Orange coach Dino Babers benched Dungey late during the second half against North Carolina in favor of redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito, who led Syracuse back to victory in overtime. That started a quarterback controversy in upstate New York, which Babers let feaster for a week until just before game time against N.C. State the following Saturday night.

But Dungey emerged as the starter out of the tunnel, and Babers played it off like his senior leader losing his job was never in question. Dungey certainly played like that was the case, completing 27 of 38 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another score.

Dungey was a dual-threat at Syracuse. In 2018, he threw for a career-best 2,868 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per pass, and 18 touchdowns versus nine interceptions. He also rushed for a career-high 754 yards and 15 scores.

Dual-threat quarterbacks have experienced more success in the NFL over the last decade, but plenty have flamed out as well. The most notable one is obviously Tim Tebow. Other great dual-threat college quarterbacks such as Braxton Miller and Denard Robinson switched positions and experienced some moderate NFL success, but it didn’t last.

That’s probably the biggest reason why Dungey isn’t considered a real NFL prospect. He was a better runner than passer, and because of his injury history, it seems highly unlikely Dungey will be able to stay healthy through a 16-game season.

There are two things working in Dungey’s favor, though, one of which is his incredible leadership and heart. Babers was often quoted during broadcasts saying Dungey possessed the “heart of a lion.” It’s part of what got him into trouble health-wise because he wouldn’t slide when he needed to, instead fighting for every yard and inch for his team.

Leadership and heart isn’t going to get one an NFL job -- again, look at Tebow as Exhibit A as why not. But the second major thing working in Dungey’s favor is how the New Orleans Saints used backup quarterback Taysom Hill in 2018.

Orange Fizz compared Dungey to Hill in an article during January.

“Hill played quarterback at BYU,” Gill Gross of Orange Fizz wrote. “It’s now impossible to stop thinking about Dungey whenever I watch Hill. They are similar in size, strength, toughness and skill-level.”

Hill played 182 snaps (17.32 percent of the Saints offense) in 2018. New Orleans mostly used him as a rusher, as he posted 196 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries, but he also attempted seven passes. The Saints loved deploying him in the red zone even if as just a decoy to open up one of the many other New Orleans weapons on offense.

Gross noted that Hill is certainly an exception to the rule. It will likely take another innovative offensive coach like Sean Payton to give Dungey a shot at that type of role. But he has the traits that make it possible.

An NFL career for Dungey is a long shot. As of the beginning of March, the seemingly best case scenario for Dungey is to just receive a training camp invite.

But don’t count him out. He’s surprised us all before, and could again.