If there’s been one topic that constantly gets the Syracuse Orange fanbase going this off-season, it’s been any discussion on the starting quarterback heading into the season.
With what seems to be two clear-cut options at the top, in incumbent starter Tommy DeVito or Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader, fans seem diametrically opposed in their opinion on who’s leading the Orange to the promised land of (hopefully) a bowl game. Dino Babes actually spoke a bit on this yesterday, noting that DeVito (No. 13) is in the lead at this point in the competition. But he does note the need to see both in game action to fully make the call, which could be coach speak for “I don’t want to publicly tell these guys I know the starter,” or a legitimate comment on the competition.
Babers wouldn't say when -- or even if -- he plans to make a QB announcement prior to September 4th, but he did say that we should expect to see both Tommy DeVito and Garrett Shrader to get snaps in games. (2/2)— Steve Infanti (@SteveInfantiNC9) August 23, 2021
Likely, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as Tommy has been the starter for the Orange at the onset of the past two seasons And while Shrader did come in for spring ball, he’s also learning a completely new system and hasn’t played quarterback, or taken a snap in game action in two-plus years. Tommy has put up decent numbers as the starter with the Orange, though he has had some rough patches — partially as a result of the inadequacy of a cobbled together offensive line and a tendency to lock into receivers rather than progress his reads.
DeVito getting the green light for the start of the season doesn’t mean we won’t see Shrader in any way shape or form, though.
In the past, Babers has shown he’s willing to change personnel based on in-game decisions, similar to how he used DeVito in the 2018 season while Eric Dungey was the penned-in starter. If there can be situations where Shrader’s differing skill set can benefit the on-field product, it should absolutely be utilized. His experience playing the tight end position at an SEC school, as well as his mobility could be used in a number of situations. Mid-game change of pace series to keep the defense on their toes could be a thing we see, if the competition is as close as it has been described. Even a “Taysom Hill” type package, utilizing the athleticism of Shrader, especially inside the red-zone, where the Orange have struggled in recent years, could be a distinct possibility.
That said, if DeVito does get the nod as the starter, he will have distinct footsteps behind him, which is something that has been lacking in recent years.
If he doesn’t come out of the gate producing, or even lighting up the stage, as his numbers to date have definitely been “producing,” there’s a chance that Shrader overtakes him in-season as the starter. If DeVito keeps winning, Shrader won’t unseat him, but if there’s some early-season losses, or close calls that shouldn’t be, I’d assume the leash is pretty short — especially when considering the pressure on Babers and this staff to pick up wins in 2021.
Without having a good look at mechanics, game-time decisions and chemistry with the wideouts, there’s not a ton more that we can postulate on, but we’ll know soon enough, with game week one being next week, where this all shakes out.