Item: The annual ACC Football Kickoff event occurs over two days next week in downtown Charlotte (Coastal Division coaches and players on July 18, Atlantic Division coaches and players the next day), setting the table for 2018 college football talk heating up in the middle of July. The traditional summer days of socializing, golf, and interviews of all sorts will also provide the first pre-season exposure for a Syracuse program that continues to seek its identity in Dino Babers third season, and heads into the sixth year (2013 member) of ACC play sporting a 22-39 overall/11-29 conference record with one bowl game victory in that period.
Late last week the ACC released the list of two players from each conference team who will join their respective head coaches at The Westin Charlotte, with the media coming from all angles to take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere to help offer glimpses of what to expect from the 14 programs for the upcoming season.
Back for his second straight year at “the Kickoff” will be Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey in his final go-round as a great brand ambassador of the program, one that Babers (along with athletic director John Wildhack) is building slowly but surely in about as competitive a league as there is anywhere nationally, and desperate for a minimum of six wins and bowl eligibility this coming post season to stay relevant in the Atlantic Division.
No doubt Dungey, the only active FBS quarterback with over 6000+ passing yards and 1000+ rushing yards, will be asked about making it through his entire last year in orange healthy, and that elusive bowl game bid. Dungey is the active ACC leader in four statistical categories (quarterback rushing yardage (1,239), TD passes (40), total offense (7,711 yards), and rushing TDs by a quarterback (20), garnering a lot of mention for pre-season all-ACC recognition.
The other top flight quarterbacks scheduled to be on hand include N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall, Daniel Jones of Duke, (also a repeat attendee), and Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson.
The other member of the ‘Cuse contingent will be defensive tackle Chris Slayton, primed to lead a steady six to eight player rotation along the D-line, as critical to the efforts to reach a bowl game as the veteran offensive line’s play protecting Dungey and letting the offense do its thing setting the tempo for how fast to play.
Also being mentioned widely for all-ACC pre-season honors, Slayton is SU’s active leader in games started (29), tackles for loss (24.5), sacks (6), and forced fumbles (4), and added a blocked kick last season to his stat package for good measure.
For Babers, coming off a potentially program culture-changing win over No. 2 Clemson last October to highlight his brief Orange reign, next week’s exposure in Charlotte begins a “show us what you got” season to the rest of the league, and an Orange Nation desperate for a return to nearly annual bowl game appearances and sniffing around the weekly national polls.