As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be tackling the biggest burning questions on the 2019 Syracuse football team. Today’s burning question: Can Tommy DeVito pick up where Eric Dungey left off?
A NEW ERA
For the first time in five years, Syracuse will have a different starting quarterback lining up under center.
Gone is four-year starter Eric Dungey, who played 39 games from 2015-18. Dungey was the face of the Orange during that time, becoming one of the most recognizable dual-threat quarterbacks in the ACC.
With Dungey graduating, the Orange will turn to redshirt sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito. He’s now in charge of Syracuse’s high-powered offense, which finished 11th in the country in 2018 with 38.4 points per game.
The question now becomes whether DeVito can keep the offense humming.
“From the past experiences I’ve had playing in games,” DeVito said, “I like to use that as a steppingstone moving forward and become the best possible leader I can for this offense and for this team.”
PAST EXPERIENCES TO LEAN ON
In eight games last year, DeVito flashed his tantalizing potential, throwing for 525 and four touchdowns.
Syracuse fans got a glimpse of what he could do during the Orange’s 30-7 win over Florida State on Sept. 15. DeVito replaced an injured Dungey and led three touchdown drives to earn ACC Freshman of the Week honors as SU defeated FSU for the first time in football since 1966.
Five weeks later, DeVito relieved an ineffective Dungey against North Carolina, entering with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter and throwing a signature 42-yard deep ball to Nykeim Johnson with 1:39 to go to send the game to overtime.
He then threw a 4-year pass to Ravian Pierce in double-overtime to cap an improbable comeback.
But DeVito also went through growing pains, especially when he was called on in relief against Notre Dame three weeks later. DeVito and Syracuse’s offense were completely stymied, scoring a season low in a 36-3 demolition at Yankee Stadium.
“Sometimes in the spotlight, people freeze a bit,” DeVito said after the loss.
TOMMY’S ‘THE MAN’ NOW
Now that Dungey is gone, the spotlight is squarely on DeVito, and he appears ready to embrace it.
During Syracuse’s spring scrimmage, as expected, Tommy DeVito took all of the first-team snaps, and for the most part looked in complete control of the offense. He was pinpoint accurate on most of his throws, completing 13-of-16 passes for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
And while the coaching staff has liked what they’ve seen so far, they know that DeVito can get even better.
“’You’re not ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ You’re not driving the speed limit and stopping at every stop sign, and when it’s yellow we stop and let everybody else go,” Babers said following the scrimmage. “You’ve got a racing car, you’ve got to make the tires sing. So we’re really on him, pushing him to see if you throw it in that hole, see if you can put it in that crack and find out what your limitations are so if we need that throw somewhere in the future, you’ll know whether you can make it or not and I think he’s been doing a good job giving us that.”
The offense will look different under DeVito. Whereas Dungey did much of his damage on the ground, rushing for 1,993 yards and 35 touchdowns, DeVito will be more of a traditional pocket passer, using his effortless deep ball as his primary weapon.
“I like to think of myself as a pocket passer,” DeVito said. “At the same time when the time comes, if I need to run, I will. That is not my first thought.”
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) August 4, 2019
His first thought has been replicating and exceeding the success of last year, when Syracuse won 10 games and finished in the top 25 for the first time since 2001.
If Syracuse accomplishes that goal, DeVito will be at the center of it.
“We haven’t reached our fully potential yet, we’re at the tip of the iceberg,” DeVito said. “We don’t have a ceiling. The only ceiling is ourselves. I hope that everyone understands that we need to be a consistent team. That’s what Coach Babers preaches to us. ‘Being consistently good, not occasionally great.’ I think that we’re trying to be consistent week in and week out.”
His teammates have seen that consistent effort in DeVito, and know that he’s ready to lead.
“He’s a quality guy, great person to be around, really influential, really knows how to take control of the room, captivate the audience he has at hand,” defensive end Kendall Coleman said. “Nobody that I’d rather work side-by-side with than him. Definitely a great person. Glad to be teammates with him and have him on my side.”