Dino Babers has the biggest decision of his Syracuse coaching career this week. Will he stick with his veteran quarterback in Eric Dungey or roll with Tommy DeVito, the hero from UNC and the one who has captured the hearts of the fanbase?
But what if he could do both? Two quarterback systems are a trend that have never been as popular as they are now in college football. Forget the cliche of “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” It couldn’t be further from the truth for the teams using them. Some of the notable teams this season to employ this strategy are Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Northwestern.
While parts of the strategy have come from the new redshirt rule, which allows players to play in up to four games to maintain their college eligibility, all of these programs have found success in doing so. While it is an easy way to stir controversy and some of the teams have phased out this gameplan because they’ve established “their guy,” those four teams mentioned have a combined 25-4 record and all four either lead or are tied for the lead in their divisions.
Syracuse could be next to utilize this system and it would make a lot of sense for the Orange, who have two different style of quarterbacks that have proven their worths at the college level. With a 5-2 team that has major bowl aspirations, there could be a lot of questions as to whether you want to potentially screw up a good thing going for the football program. But as Babers has said on and on again, this team doesn’t care about who gets the credit. Want some evidence of that? When DeVito was slotted into the game, the first person to get in his ear to prepare him for the moment was Dungey. All they want is to see the number in the W column keep climbing.
This won’t be a problem of egos. Dungey has proven his maturity over the years, including graciously getting benched on Saturday. He simply didn’t have it against the Tar Heels. DeVito did. The same thing happened against Florida State. But the opposite has certainly been true before this season. Against Western Michigan, Wagner and UConn, DeVito looked like a shell of his ACC self. Sure, those are lesser teams and lesser defenses, but Dungey didn’t just look good. He looked so dominant that he put himself into the Heisman conversation. Meanwhile, DeVito combined to go 6-for-18 for 74 yards with no touchdowns. The checks and balances with the two quarterbacks have worked out nicely thus far and now is not the time to stop.
Let’s face it, last week (as well as against Florida State) was a high leverage situation. But it was not a high pressure situation for DeVito. If Syracuse had lost those games, all the blame would have fallen on the shoulders of Dungey and Babers. The senior would have been ripped for his lackluster performance and the coach would have been second guessed for yanking his starter. DeVito delivered in those games, but on the surface there was not much pressure on his shoulders. Regardless, he showed off enough poise to be the starting quarterback.
In Syracuse’s case, a two quarterback system would thrive. Dungey and DeVito’s contrasting styles complement each other well. Dungey is the dual threat guy who can’t be taken out of the lineup because of how dangerous he is with his legs, while DeVito is a pocket passer who has the gunslinging arm. Just as much was proven against UNC with Dungey’s touchdown run and DeVito seemingly throwing nothing but deep balls.
This is where they complement each other and can work in tandem to take this Orange offense to the next level. DeVito is nothing special as a runner and even has some youthful Dungey tendencies where he takes hits instead of sliding. Meanwhile, Dungey doesn’t have the same type of arm that DeVito has. The senior has struggled connecting on the deep ball this season, while DeVito connected on three passes of 20 yards or more in his comeback effort.
The Orange needs both Dungey and DeVito down the stretch. They can co-exist in Babers offense and by this point in the process, he has shown his game plan works with either guy. Dungey should and probably will get the start against NC State, but he’s going to have a short leash with DeVito having helmet in hand ready to go for the entire game. Expect both guys to get some run, and the best man will be out there to close out the game.