As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a unit-by-unit preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re taking a look at the quarterbacks, who will have a new No. 1 QB for the first time in four years.
The biggest loss in the offseason for the Orange comes from under center.
When healthy, quarterback Eric Dungey was Syracuse’s starting quarterback for nearly his entire tenure on campus, throwing for 9,340 yards and 58 touchdowns, plus another 35 scores on the ground.
Dungey went out with a bang, throwing for 303 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia as Syracuse won the Camping World Bowl, 34-18.
Though Dungey wasn’t selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, he signed as an undrafted free agent with New York Giants on Wednesday.
“Dungey’s such a tremendous competitor,” Babers said following Syracuse’s spring game. “It’s hard for me to believe that there are two or three guys that can out compete him for anything.”
Also out is quarterback Chance Amie. The Texas product, who likely would’ve been the backup quarterback this season, left for JUCO Blinn College in Brenham, Texas.
PROJECTED STARTER: TOMMY DEVITO
With Dungey gone, it’s sophomore Tommy DeVito’s team.
The four-star quarterback from Don Bosco (NJ) waited his turn, and showed flashes of his potential in spot duty last year. He threw for 525 yards and four touchdowns.
Most notably, in a double-overtime win against North Carolina, DeVito threw three touchdowns as Syracuse overcame a late deficit. DeVito also provided a changeup to Dungey against Florida State, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another.
“[Dungey] was more lead by example. He was a physical dude. Everybody knows how he plays on the field,” DeVito said. “[I’m] really taking that into consideration, trying to be more vocal and trying to be more of a leader.”
That’s been evident in spring, with DeVito playing an efficient spring game. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, showing a fluency in head coach Dino Babers’ high-octane offense.
The day wasn’t completely perfect for DeVito, as he threw an interception to Trill Williams that was returned for a touchdown.
Even with the blemish, Babers liked what he saw.
“Obviously, he threw the interception in the spring game that may or may not have been a touchdown,” Babers said. “But we’ve been challenging him. You got a racing car. You have to make the tires sing. So, we’re really on him, pushing him to see if he can throw it in that hole, see if he can put it in that crack.”
DeVito has also been challenged in the weight room with a different style of lifting.
With most weight training regimes, the philosophy has been to lift the most weight at a pace the lifter is most comfortable with. But DeVito said the training staff has challenged him and the rest of the quarterbacks to also incorporate speed into lifting using a TENDO tracker.
“It tests the bar speed. Every time you do one rep, it tells you how fast the bar is moving,” DeVito said. “Everything is kind of speed based. Whatever weight we had on the bar we were doing with speed rather than slow moving.”
That kind of training started early, with the Orange gathering for voluntary practices barely a week after the offseason started.
“The first week, we came back, we started throwing. Usually, that’s early for a lot of teams, but a lot of the guys were responsive,” DeVito said. “I could tell from the time I was a freshman until now, a lot of people are a lot more confident. People know what they need to do to get to where we were last year.”
WHO’S BACKING HIM UP
The real position battle in this unit is for DeVito’s top understudy.
Rex Culpepper, who spent last season with the tight ends, has moved back to the quarterback position. He was particularly sharp in the spring game, completing 13 of 14 passes for 149 yards and a score.
The highlight of his day came when he found Anthony Queeley for a slick 16-yard touchdown catch.
Meanwhile, redshirt senior Clayton Welch, a transfer from Butte Community College, finished with 75 passing yards and the throw of the day to Nykeim Johnson. That resulted in a 71-yard score, the longest passing play of the afternoon.
Still, Welsh completed just two of his nine passes.
Syracuse’s fourth quarterback on the roster is freshman David Summers, a three-star quarterback from Connecticut who switched his commitment from Maryland to Syracuse around NLI Day.
As a senior at St. Joseph’s (Conn.), he threw for 2,631 yards and 39 touchdowns. He won’t arrive at Syracuse until the summer, so it’s hard to get a read on where he will end up on the depth chart.
There’s no question that DeVito is an ACC caliber quarterback. The real question is what happens if DeVito is hurt.
Culpepper and Welch are nice backups, but the talent gap between the two of them and DeVito is much wider than the gap between DeVito and Dungey last year. If DeVito is hurt for whatever reason, the lack of depth behind him is a serious concern, especially with how critical a competent quarterback is to Babers’ offensive scheme.
Perhaps that concern can be assuaged if Summers can learn the offense and assert himself as a clear No. 2. Otherwise, each time DeVito gets up gingerly, Syracuse should be plenty concerned.