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In his weekly press conference ahead of a Friday night home game against Liberty, head coach Dino Babers said he is still evaluating whether Tommy DeVito or Garrett Shrader will be Syracuse’s starting quarterback moving forward. The two posted similar stat lines in a blowout win over UAlbany, and Babers has kept information about his plans for the position to a minimum.
“I’m not going to be announcing anything right here because it would be a tactical advantage for our opponent,” Babers said. “But, in the order of, they will know first, the team will know second, and the media will know third. ”
Here are three takeaways from Babers’ weekly press conference following SU’s win over UAlbany:
Quarterback evaluation still ongoing
The Orange’s matchup against the Great Danes — a Football Championship Subdivision team — seemed to be a good game for DeVito and Shrader to demonstrate their knowledge of Syracuse’s offense. DeVito made the start under center for the third consecutive game and threw for 147 yards and a touchdown on nine passing attempts. DeVito did, however, throw for an interception that was returned for a UAlbany touchdown in the first quarter, but the pass had gone off the hands of Orange receiver Trebor Pena.
Just like in the loss against Rutgers, Babers planned before last Saturday’s game to bring in Shrader off the bench. The Mississippi State transfer went 11-for-15 passing, and he threw for 190 yards in addition to a touchdown to running back Sean Tucker. Shrader saw more snaps than DeVito when the game was in its blowout stages in the second half, and DeVito was once again listed as the team’s starter in a depth chart released Monday.
“We’re still going through the evaluation,” Babers said.
Babers said that with two quarterbacks who are “capable of playing,” both need to prepare heading into a game. When asked if he will have a short leash with whoever is named the starter, Babers compared it to bringing a relief pitcher out of the bullpen in a baseball game.
“It’s more of a starter-reliever type situation,” Babers said. “If you put the starter in and he can go nine innings … that’s fantastic, bring in a new leader. And then we’ll see who plays good and who gets to do it the next time. But I see it more like that, we have two guys who can play, more so than one guy is this and another guy is that.”
Syracuse’s top wide receiver, Taj Harris, didn’t play against UAlbany and tweeted pregame that he would be back for the Liberty game, though the tweet was later deleted. When asked about his status, Babers said Harris gave him a thumbs up at practice on Monday.
Defensive back Garrett Williams also didn’t appear against the Great Danes after an injury during the Rutgers game. Williams was visibly limping on the sidelines during the loss against the Scarlet Knights, but Babers said he thought Williams would “be good” and has been present at every practice ahead of the Albany game. Babers said without Williams against UAlbany, Syracuse’s defense “did a good job” in containing the Great Danes.
Three-year starter Dakota Davis saw 35 snaps in his first appearance of the season against UAlbany. Babers emphasized the Orange are focused on Davis’ conditioning and they hope he can build it up to the point where he can play an entire game. Davis missed the Ohio and Rutgers games with a lower-body injury.
Babers also added that tight end Luke Benson, who left Saturday’s game early after being hit in the knees on a tackle, is still being evaluated and his status is currently unclear.
“It was a very physical game,” Babers said. “We’ve got some guys in the training room that are banged up and we got to get them back healthy, and that’s going to be really important for our success this week.”
Stopping Malik Willis
Last season, Liberty defeated Syracuse in the Carrier Dome 38-21. The Flames’ quarterback, Malik Willis, threw for 182 yards, ran for 70 more and totaled two touchdowns. Liberty finished the season 10-1 and ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll. Babers said stopping Willis will be a key for SU to pull out a victory on Saturday.
“He’s a quarterback that can throw the football, he throws a good deep ball, he throws a good short ball, but he runs so strong,” Babers said. “I’m not going to call him a running back because he’s not, but God, he does not run like a running quarterback. He’s very very strong, very very physical.”
Babers said he watched the film of Willis Sunday night but added it’s very difficult to replicate Willis’ speed and physicality in practice. Babers and SU have watched tape of Willis from last season, but Babers added that Willis now has an additional year playing under head coach Hugh Freeze’s offense.
In Liberty’s 28-point win over Old Dominion last Saturday, Willis threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns while also running for 77 yards and two more scores.
“He looks like he’s healthy, doesn’t look like he’s banged up. And that’s the amazing thing, is his style of play, you’d think that he’d get banged up a little bit or slow up, limp a little bit during the game, but you don’t see any of that stuff. He’s a mad truck, he just doesn’t go down and seems like he doesn’t get hurt,” Babers said.
The post Dino Babers talks player injuries, starting quarterback ahead of Liberty game appeared first on The Daily Orange.