NEXT IN LINE: The years waiting that brought Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito to the cusp of stardom

first_img Published on August 29, 2019 at 2:13 am Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. For three years, Tommy DeVito watched. Watched as the media hyped him up, marrying the four-star recruit to the beginning of the Dino Babers era in Syracuse. Watched as backups started in place of an injured Eric Dungey so DeVito wouldn’t burn his redshirt season. He even watched Dungey return to the starting role despite DeVito saving a game the week prior.“Sometimes you gotta wait your turn,” DeVito said following a practice in August.It’s not just a saying, but a mantra DeVito’s forcefully lived by. DeVito waited in youth football while coaches’ sons played over him. A transfer seized the starting job in high school. So even when DeVito broke out at the Elite 11 prospect camp, it was too late. The guys who had been on the scene — fellow campers Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa — tossed touchdowns in the College Football Playoff National Championship while DeVito hadn’t taken a collegiate snap.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textStuck behind a formidable predecessor in Dungey, a four-year starter who set or tied 25 individual school records, it didn’t matter that DeVito understood the offense entering his redshirt freshman season. Maybe the comeback performance against North Carolina should’ve been the turning point. It should’ve been the moment his resume flipped from unproven hype to tangible evidence. From waiting, to starting. DeVito would never say that, not even this fall camp now that he’s the starter and Dungey’s graduated.“It’s always coach’s decision,” DeVito said.DeVito sees the whole picture. Saying he should’ve started now doesn’t earn him back anything. It’s the type of thing that has been ingrained in him. The experiences — the aggressive coaching from an early age and learning to be a backup — have prepared him for this moment, and now it’s finally his.Entering his redshirt sophomore season, DeVito’s the starter for a No. 22 Syracuse squad ranked in the preseason for the first time since the year he was born. Finally, he has the opportunity to join his former campmates in Fromm and Tagovailoa in college football lore. If it’s to work out, if the wait was worth it and DeVito can spearhead Syracuse’s continued success from 2018, it’ll be predicated on the path which brought him here.“He’s used to taking the long road, as long as you get there,” said DeVito’s father, Tom. “But you got to go through the process…now it’s put up or shut up time.”,DeVito’s trained to be a starting quarterback since he linked up with quarterback coach Leon Clarke at six years old. He dissected defenses and developed a quick delivery, effortless long ball and technically sound footwork.As DeVito entered sixth grade, his dad started media training with his son, Tom said. He often simulated postgame interview questions, gearing DeVito’s answers toward position groups, not specific players. He wanted his son to be fluent in “coach speak,” and avoid offending teammates or opponents.DeVito was often featured in articles on Youth1, which ranked top prospects in his recruiting class before high school. Once he reached his sophomore season at Don Bosco Prep (New Jersey) High School, DeVito was the expected starter. But then Wesley McKoy, an athlete who could play both receiver and quarterback, transferred and plucked DeVito’s spot.“If you have to sit, you sit,” Clarke remembered instructing DeVito. “You be a good teammate. You wait your turn.”If DeVito didn’t play much on a Friday night, he’d throw with Clarke the next Saturday or Sunday. Practice sessions had clear focuses, from run-pass option drills to situational practice based on ball placement and the area of the field.Clarke’s practice regiments polished DeVito’s skills, but could only take him so far. In DeVito’s final regular season game of his sophomore season — against a rival high school on Thanksgiving — DeVito completed 7-of-16 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, per NJ.com.The next season, Don Bosco hired former NFL quarterback Mike Teel as an offensive coordinator. He brought a new offense, similar to what he played with as a quarterback at Rutgers and with the Seattle Seahawks. The reads started simple: How many safeties were there? If there was only one player as the last line of defense in the secondary, then DeVito would look for one set of receivers. If there were two safeties, he’d throw a different direction. Slowly, it became more advanced. DeVito noted where linebackers dropped to coverage and threw opposite their movements.It was advanced skill play, Teel noted, more comparable to something he’d learned at Rutgers, not in high school. Throughout the season, DeVito learned more about defensive alignments and shifted more play calls at the line. By season’s end, he’d thrown for 17 passing touchdowns and led Don Bosco to a state championship.“It took him some time to kind of figure it out and catch on because it was different and it was probably pretty difficult,” Teel said. “But as he grew and as he became more comfortable, you could see he had a really high football IQ.”The summer after his junior season, DeVito surprised scouts at the Elite 11 and The Opening, another top quarterback camp. He quickly rose to a four-star recruit, but Teel remembers that summer for DeVito staying level-headed. He continued his process with Clarke and became one of the strongest players on the team despite being a 193-pound quarterback.,DeVito’s done the same at Syracuse, where videos have surfaced of him hang-cleaning 330 pounds as receivers gawked at his confidence. He spent the last two years understanding the quick-hitting Babers offense with occasional first team practice reps.He’s stayed quiet publicly, watching and learning from Dungey’s pressers, just as Clarke wanted. But when the time came for DeVito to take his first live snaps at Syracuse, it was similar to his first chance at Don Bosco — some good, some bad, but flashes that ignited excitement.And so, DeVito is done waiting for his chance, just in time to prove himself once more.“It was nothing new to me,” DeVito said. “Always just be ready. If your number’s called, go out and do what you gotta do, play football.”Cover photo by Corey Henry, Photo Illustration by Sarah Allam Commentslast_img read more