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Syracuse football 2019 position preview: Quarterbacks

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After four years of Eric Dungey, a new era begins.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’re in July, the 2019 Syracuse Orange football season is actually pretty close (less than two months out!). So it’s safe to say we can start with position previews for each group on this year’s SU roster.

Each week leading up to the season, we’re profiling one group and every player that could make an impact this fall. Today, we start with:

Quarterbacks

Regardless of how good your coach and/or team is, replacing a four-year starting quarterback is never an easy task. Yet, if ever it was worth being confident about the transition, Dino Babers would certainly inspire a decent amount of faith there. Eric Dungey’s graduated following a record-setting career, and his departure means far less improvisation. That could be a problem — but it’s also likely the Orange have an offense that’s more similar to what Babers prefers now, too.

Though the offense clearly ran through Dungey once again last year, it was also the first time that Syracuse had a capable run game to complement it (200 yards per game, on average). That was with an experienced QB at the helm, so there’s a chance we need to see even more from the ground game this year. With luck, however, the passing game is able to not only pick up right where it left off — north of 264 yards per game — but potentially even improve (at least from an efficiency standpoint) with a drop-back quarterback under center.

Tommy DeVito, (Redshirt) Sophomore

If the offense is going to look like what Babers wants, that starts with DeVito, who’s much more of a pocket passer than Dungey was, and has a stronger arm as well. We saw glimpses of the former four-star recruit last year, and the results were hot and cold. On the one hand, DeVito was 11-of-16 for 144 yards and a score in a win over Florida State, and 11-for-19 for 181 yards and three scores in the late comeback over North Carolina. On the other, he didn’t necessarily look great vs. Notre Dame (fine) or Western Michigan (less so).

Still, it was his first game action, he won’t be thrown in like that this year, and he was running Dungey’s offense. There will be some bumps this year as he gets acclimated as the starter, but that early work should pay dividends later. Expect DeVito to utilize the deep ball more, and get a lot of the young pass-catchers involved. While excellent in several aspects of the game, Dungey never really had a quick release. DeVito is much more likely to do so, while being less likely to run than his predecessor.

Clayton Welch, (Redshirt) Senior

Welch is a big passer at 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds, yet has yet to see the field for the Orange since arriving back in 2017. That could change this year, however, as he’s likely the second-string QB and a player that appears ready to go if called upon. Teammates have remarked about his confidence, and Stephen Bailey’s offseason story for Syracuse.com talks about how he uses his size to challenge defenders. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. But it’s nice to know there’s an option available who could look the part of a starter.

Rex Culpepper, (Redshirt) Junior

Culpepper didn’t appear at quarterback last season, though still saw the field in six games on special teams less than a year after wrapping up treatment for testicular cancer. But once Chance Amie transferred out this offseason, he was added back to the quarterback depth chart. Nothing’s changed about his ability since he last lined up under center. He may not be as dynamic as DeVito, though he still has nearly as many career passing yards under his belt (518 vs. 525 for Tommy). So he could wind up leap-frogging Welch if Babers sees he has full grasp of the offense again.

David Summers, Freshman

With three “veteran” quarterbacks on the roster already, Summers arrives as a long-term play, so it’s almost guaranteed he redshirts this year. That’s not to diminish the talent he could bring to the table, though. The three-star former Maryland commit had several P5 offers, and has worked with quarterback coach Leon Clarke (who also coached DeVito). And as a senior at St. Joseph High School (in Connecticut), he threw for 2,631 yards and 39 touchdowns. At the very least, he understands how to operate in a pass-centric offense, which will come in handy when he eventually sees game action with SU.

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While last year’s quarterback group had real, tangible depth, this one is more top-heavy. In terms of college experience, it’s really just DeVito, plus some potential contributions from Culpepper. That’s not a bad thing if DeVito remains healthy all year. Should he go down at all though (/shudders), there are far more questions than answers for Syracuse.

As mentioned, there’s some reason for optimism this year when just looking at DeVito, however. With the Orange, we’ve yet to really see Dino’s offense showcased with a quarterback designed for it calling the plays. So despite it being year four on campus for Babers, we may be watching an attack like we’ve never really seen before at SU. That’s interesting and exciting to think about, provided DeVito, the revamped offensive line and these receivers are up for the task. I have faith, and you should too based on Babers’s track record. Though it is a lot to bank on all at once.