The Syracuse Orange football team had its second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, running 134 plays during the closed, 96-minute session. And unlike the team’s first scrimmage last month, the passing game actually played a factor this time around.
Eric Dungey tossed a 98-yard touchdown pass to Sean Riley at the start of the scrimmage, while Tommy DeVito (who I bet we see quite a bit of during Friday’s spring game) handled first-team snaps for the rest of it and threw three touchdown passes. Among those were a 35-yarder to Riley, a 50-yarder to Devin C. Butler and a 30-yard strike to Ravian Pierce.
Clayton Welch also threw a touchdown pass of his own while handling second-team snaps -- the fifth and last of the day for the Orange offense.
DeVito’s three TDs are great, obviously, but it’s also good to see a breakout effort from Riley. After functioning as a larger part of the offense in the early part of the 2017 season, his role seemed to decrease as the year went on. In Saturday’s scrimmage, however, his two long touchdowns showed signs of that breakout ability coming back.
The run game also showed up, with three more TDs. Dontae Strickland punched one in from 25 yards out, while Moe Neal accounted for the other two (from 17 and six yards, respectively).
It wasn’t all good news for the offense, though. The defense managed 12 sacks during the scrimmage, after recording 10 sacks a few weeks ago. Last season’s sack leader Alton Robinson led the way with four, and Kingsley Jonathan added two. True freshman safety Andre Cisco also managed the game’s only turnover when he hauled in an interception. There’s a caveat on the sacks, obviously, since what constitutes a “sack” is a bit different in these scrimmages than they are in game action. The combined 22 sacks this spring would otherwise be a better total than either of the past two complete seasons.
Afterward, Dino Babers shared his perspective on the scrimmage:
“I thought it was the most physical scrimmage we’ve had. Pads were popping. I thought the kids took the challenge of hitting one another like they were their brothers, and doing it the correct way – above the knees and below the chin. That’s what I loved the most about it.”
The balanced effort from both sides of the ball is a nice sign going forward, as the offense and defense each managed to impress in spurts. Young players like DeVito and Cisco getting involved like this is key to building valuable depth, and it’ll be great to see a lot of those underclassmen in action come Friday evening.
Syracuse has plenty of returning players that will be featured during the spring game, but you’ve seen a lot of them in action already. Where this year’s spring game should really be interesting for fans is seeing the rising stars take significant reps. Barring another Dungey injury, DeVito won’t be this year’s starter. However, seeing him in action on Friday at least shows us some of what he brings to the table within this offense.
The Orange spring game starts at 7 p.m. ET on Friday at the Carrier Dome. Admission and parking are free, and gates open at 5 p.m. If you’re not in the Syracuse area, you can catch the event on ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN.