The Carrier Dome was rocking. Chris Fredericks had just intercepted Trevor Lawrence and returned it inside the 10-yard line. Trailing 17-6 in the third quarter, this was the break Syracuse needed to have a shot against No. 1 Clemson.
Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito took the snap, rolled out right to avoid the pressure, and threw a back-breaking pick to give the Tigers the ball right back. It was just the latest sign that DeVito was not ready to be handed the starting job at Syracuse this season.
Make no mistake, he was easily the most qualified candidate. No one else on the Syracuse roster had a chance at starting.
DeVito made appearances in six games last year, going 2-1 in games where he took the majority of the snaps. He led the Orange to an important victory against UNC in double overtime to keep hopes of a major bowl game alive. However, there were plenty of signs DeVito needed a bit more seasoning before being able to replace Eric Dungey.
DeVito finished last year with a 50.6 completion percentage, a 44.5 QBR and negative 17 rushing yards. In short, he was never going to be Dungey, who was elusive, powerful and poised. To this point, DeVito has shown no ability to be any of those things yet.
He spent the majority of the Notre Dame game picking turf out of his facemask, but even when he wasn’t, there was inaccurate passes and questionable decisions that come from an overmatched quarterback.
The biggest difference between the Dungey and DeVito is also the most significant one. Experience. We are comparing the redshirt sophomore to the senior. When Dungey stepped under center last season, he had already played in 24 games.
He had spent the previous three years learning how to be a starting quarterback and matured into the incredible leader he was last season for ‘Cuse. DeVito began the season without an official start under his belt. That probably should have let us know to temper our expectations for the season.
There are some troubling tendencies the Don Bosco Prep product needs to fine tune in order to get this season back on track for the Orange.
For one, he needs to relax. DeVito holds onto the ball way too long and tends to drop back even further when he feels pressure, rather than step up in the pocket. Part of that is because he wants to make a play, a trait many young quarterbacks carry.
Most coaches and analysts will tell you a huge step in the maturation process of any passer is knowing when to throw the ball away and look to the next play. DeVito’s first interception against Clemson was the perfect sign that he has not mastered the skill yet.
You can’t blame him for feeling the pressure. It was the first sell out in the Carrier Dome in 21 years. In that environment, you want to make a play that fires up the crowd and ignites a potential comeback. Unfortunately, DeVito tried to do a bit too much and it backfired. He wasn’t perfect.
Neither was Trevor Lawrence, who might be the best college quarterback in the country. All of this does not fall on DeVito. Syracuse failed to execute across the board. DeVito does not need to perfect, but he certainly needs to play a higher level than the one he found on Saturday.
While I have been hard on the Orange quarterback, I still believe in DeVito, in what he could be. We’ve seen Dino Babers do some great things with quarterbacks in previous stops (Jimmy Garoppolo) and already at Syracuse (Dungey). He will find a way to get the best out of him and turn into a starting caliber ACC quarterback.
DeVito just isn’t there yet. When he is though, look out.