Syracuse backup quarterback Tommy DeVito struggled in Syracuse’s win over Western Michigan, completing just 4 of 9 passes for 42 yards while rushing seven times for 12 yards. In the five series that DeVito lined up under center, the Orange didn’t score.
DeVito, who is head coach Dino Babers’ most prized recruit to date, was rated four stars and an Elite 11 quarterback coming out of high school. So there was a bit of disappointment to watch DeVito not be able to move the Orange down field.
But Syracuse fans shouldn’t be overly discouraged by DeVito’s underwhelming week 1 performance. The most apt comparison comes from the 2009 season, Doug Marrone’s first season back with SU.
That year, like 2018, the Orange had an established starter (Greg Paulus/Eric Dungey) and a head coach that was trying to get his freshman quarterback (Ryan Nassib/DeVito) as much experience as he could.
The results were not particularly great for Nassib. The future New York Giants quarterback appeared in 10 games, completing 36 of 68 passes (52.9 percent) for 422 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing 27 times for 26 yards.
While Nassib’s first appearance went slightly better than DeVito’s (in a 28-7 loss against Penn State, Nassib completed 4 of 5 passes for 30 yards), Nassib also played against the Nittany Lions’ second string defense, while DeVito was lining up against a Broncos defense that was eager to close the margin (which it obviously did).
Syracuse hosts Wagner this week, and DeVito is expected to get plenty of playing time once the Orange establishes a healthy lead against their FCS opponents. Interestingly, Nassib didn’t appear in Syracuse’s win against Maine in 2009.
There weren’t any other cupcakes on the 2009 schedule that could afford Nassib extended time, but Nassib had the best game of his freshman season in his next appearance. In a 34-13 loss against West Virginia, Nassib relieved a mostly ineffective Paulus and threw for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s fair to expect that kind of stat line for DeVito against Wagner this Saturday.
Nassib would go on to be named the starter in his redshirt sophomore year, throwing for 2,334 yards and 19 touchdowns as Syracuse went 8-5 that season with a win in the Pinstripe Bowl, SU’s first bowl game since the 2005 season.
So yes, DeVito struggled. In fact, DeVito may struggle a lot this season as he gets acclimated to FBS football. But the experience he’ll gain this season, like Nassib did in 2009, will contribute significantly to his success later down the line.
Nassib, as a reminder, went on to set Syracuse records for passing yards (9,190) and completions (791), while ranking second in touchdown passes (70) and completion percentage (60.3 percent).
And that was all with a redshirt freshman year that will likely line up with DeVito’s final stat line.