Last week, while addressing the media for the first time in months, Dino Babers proclaimed his desire for Tommy DeVito to run the offense just as the driver in Ford vs. Ferrari ran the Ford. That’s not a movie endorsement, and at this point in quarantine, if you haven’t finished your Netflix queue you never will. The point is that Babers wants the leader of his offense to know the system inside and out, but none of that matters if DeVito is driving an offense with a leaky engine.
Devito is entering his redshirt junior season, and this is the year for him to take a step up. Sure, he lost one of the most reliable tailbacks in program history with Moe Neal graduating. As if that wasn’t enough, leading receiver Trishton Jackson turned pro and Devito will be working with a new offensive coordinator. But fans have to pay attention to the most critical detail that was consciously overlooked, creating last year’s unrealistic expectations. As the offensive line goes, so will DeVito.
He might not be as mobile as Eric Dungey, but it’s not a coincidence that DeVito was sacked 44 times last season, more than any other FBS signal caller. The loss of Koda Martin and Cody Conway was too much for a first year starting quarterback to overcome. But DeVito matured each time he hit the turf, which makes him a threat to ACC defenses, one that will fly under the radar on the mid-week scouting reports.
This year will be different. It has to be different for the Orange to succeed in 2020. Last year, Babers couldn’t figure out how to construct the wall in front of DeVito without one of the bricks falling out. He forced experienced players out of position, and inexperienced players onto the field prematurely.
Aaron Servais split time between center and left tackle. This season, he should spend the entire year on the blind side, with redshirt sophomore Carlos Vettorello as the full-time center. Vettorello was not ready in 2019, and was consequently exposed. He added at least ten pounds of muscle since his freshman year, and projects to be ready as an ACC center in 2020. Matthew Bergeron was thrusted into an impact role as a true freshman midway through the year, but proved that the moment was not too big for him. The 300-pounder became the first true freshman to start a game at tackle for the Orange since 2002.
DeVito can finally feel comfortable about his protection, and wait for plays to develop. It doesn’t matter if he knows the system like the back of his own hand if he doesn’t have time to rev the engine. Just as the up-tempo offense is only as fast as its slowest lineman, it is only as effective as its worst. Maybe if DeVito has time in the pocket, Syracuse fans will see what the scouting report promised when the former four-star recruit committed. A big arm, with a strong pocket presence that can command Babers’ Orange is the new fast offense.