In the fourth quarter of the overtime win against the North Carolina Tar Heels, senior Eric Dungey was replaced as Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers opted to go with redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito.
While it raised some question in the moment, DeVito sparked the offense by throwing bomb after bomb down the field, forcing the game to overtime and eventually winning it in double OT. Now, Babers is left with a quarterback controversy on his hands: does he start the upstart DeVito or the proven Dungey? Babers spoke about that impending decision and much more during Wednesday’s ACC teleconference...
Who starts this weekend?
When Dungey left the game for his protege, Babers had to be aware of the incoming cries of controversy. By substituting out a quarterback of Dungey’s experience for someone of DeVito’s talent, Babers put the media attention upon himself. Today, he addressed his decision.
“What I like about both of those young men is that they are unselfish players,” Babers said. “I mean, those guys have a great relationship. Obviously there’s only one starting quarterback to a football team, but I’ve never seen a relationship any closer than those two.”
... now envisioning some sort of Step Brothers situation.
“Tommy asks Dungey all kinds of questions and Dungey is always helping Tommy, so that’s the thing I love both about them,” Babers continued. “From an individual standpoint, I wouldn’t separate one from the other. I think they are both really good quarterbacks and they are capable of leading this football team.”
Babers said on Monday that it would be handled “internally.” Today, he did not mention who would be the starter on Saturday . Based on what he said, it can be presumed that Dungey is mentoring Devito. Of course, Devito should be the starter next year after Dungey graduates, so it makes sense. Yet, the fact that Babers said he “wouldn’t separate one from the other” means that there perhaps is a battle ongoing in practice. No one will know until Saturday who will take the first snap against the Wolfpack.
No word on Scoop Bradshaw or Christopher Fredrick
During last Saturday’s game against UNC, both starting cornerbacks, juniors Scoop Bradshaw (undisclosed) and Chris Frederick (ankle) could not finish the game due to injury. Fredrick is second on the team with two interceptions, and he and Bradshaw have combined for three pass deflections. Babers was unsure if either will play this weekend.
“We haven’t had a no that they are not going to be in the game,” he said. “Obviously they are banged up a little bit. We’re just going to have to wait and see how they feel at the end of the week.”
If they aren’t able to go, that means freshman Ifeatu Melifonwu will start in their place. He replaced Bradshaw last weekend and shined in his role. UNC threw at him down the stretch of the fourth quarter and he prevented multiple catches. He batted away passes, boxed out receivers, and halted the Tar Heel offense on various drives. Babers was impressed by the freshman’s performance (which earned him a spot on Pro Football Focus’s All-ACC Defensive Team of the Week).
“I thought he was a young man that came into camp really fighting for a job and doing some good things, but obviously the two starters, Scoop and Fredrick, were just really, really good players, and he just had to wait his time,” he said. “We got some guys banged up and he’s gotten an opportunity, and like some of the other freshmen around here, he’s really taken advantage of his opportunity.”
If Melifonwu is forced into action again, Babers is confident that he will perform at a high level again. While it will be against future NFL quarterback Ryan Finley, it’s an interesting test for the freshman to see just how much he got out of his first real game experience last Saturday.