On Sunday, Syracuse football was tabbed as a road underdog in its opener against the Mid-American Conference Ohio Bobcats, and it’s the latest prediction not to take Syracuse seriously.
Part of the doubt and uncertainty around the team’s progress stems from the quarterback position. Any Syracuse fan paying even slight attention to the team knows that with just 10 days before opening kickoff, head coach Dino Babers hasn’t committed to a starter under center. The most important position in football remains (at the moment) unsolved for the Orange.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Babers will be forced to pick and stick with his returning starter in Tommy DeVito or the intriguing, unknown transfer in Garrett Shrader. Choosing one or the other to be set in stone may not be the way the creative, offensive-minded Dino Babers goes. We could very well see both used this season in different ways – and how things may go is anyone’s guess.
When talking about SU’s quarterbacks, things really only come down to Tommy DeVito and Garrett Shrader. They’re the two guys tabbed to actually play, whereas JaCobian Morgan likely won’t see the field barring serious injuries. DeVito and Shrader present vastly different skillsets, and that goes a long way in determining usage.
Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of precedent for this type of thing, at least in college football. In the NFL, the Dolphins just tried a two-quarterback system with rookie Tua Tagovailoa and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2020 to mixed results.
Usually, college teams don’t have two talented passers who can throw consistently, so one quarterback becomes a runner. Penn State went 9-4 in 2018 using both Trace McSorley (passer) and Tommy Stevens (runner). The 2012 Oklahoma Sooners started Landry Jones at quarterback to the tune of 30 touchdown passes, but they would often bring in a more mobile backup in Blake Bell for short-yardage running situations. Bell threw 16 passes on the year, carried 60 times for 201 yards, and scored 11 (!) touchdowns as the Sooners went 10-3.
SU’s situation is this: Tommy DeVito has 128 rushing yards in three seasons and is coming off a major leg injury. Dino Babers’ offense has been shown to work much better with mobile passers (see: Dungey, Eric). It’s definitely possible Syracuse dials up run plays for the more fleet-footed Garrett Shrader, and he might play a role as a short-yardage runner as an option quarterback even if he doesn’t start. If DeVito starts the season under center and Shrader somehow finds a way to appear in games, this is an easy bet to be the most likely option.
However, Babers and his staff may want to tread carefully. DeVito and Shrader both want to play. They’ve been competing for the starting job for months. Give too much time to one player, and the other may feel spurned. However, attempting to utilize the skills of both guys could help the team more than sitting one and leaving it unknown. For Dino Babers, anything might be worth a try this year.