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Head coach Dino Babers doesn’t know how long Tommy DeVito will be absent. The redshirt junior quarterback left Saturday’s game against Duke with a lower left leg injury. He was seen on the sideline in a boot and needed crutches to maneuver around the field.
DeVito’s injury is one of many for the Orange, including All-American safety Andre Cisco and starting running backs Jawhar Jordan and Sean Tucker. Babers confirmed Monday that Cisco will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. Cisco suffered an ACL injury, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told The Daily Orange.
Entering a matchup against undefeated Liberty, SU will not change its identity, Babers said. Instead, the Orange will focus on tackling and toughness. Various underclassmen are filling starting roles, and SU may be without its original starting quarterback, running back, guard, middle linebacker and two safeties.
“When you’re playing a pure ACC schedule, the injuries mount up,” Babers said. “The heart is there, the speed is there, but the physicality is something you have to match. That’s not an excuse. We have to dig down deep and find a way to match it.”
DeVito left Saturday’s game early, though he did record his most yards of the season. He found wide receiver Taj Harris for a 79-yard score, as well as tight end Luke Benson for 53, despite being sacked five times.
DeVito was still using crutches during Sunday’s team meeting, Babers said. He cited the difference in physicality as the main reason for the Duke loss — the Orange were stuffed for 28 yards on 23 carries. One game after Tucker broke loose for 112 yards, the freshman left injured.
“If you didn’t think this was going to be a different type of year, you were really pulling the wool over your eyes,” Babers said. “It’s very unique. For those who survive, they’ll be stronger.”
If DeVito is unavailable, the obvious replacement is Rex Culpepper. The senior filled in for DeVito against Pittsburgh, tossing a 69-yard deep ball to Harris. Against Duke, he completed one pass for three yards.
But Babers doesn’t believe the offense will change with a new signal-caller. Culpepper joined the program before Babers’ first year and understands the nuances of his offense, the head coach said.
“He knows this offense as good as anybody, it’s just a matter of executing and doing things right. We have someone who has a lot of knowledge,” Babers said.
DeVito’s injury also shifts Jacobian Morgan, Dillon Markiewicz or David Summers into the backup role. All freshmen, none have thrown a pass for Syracuse yet.
With such limited practices, Babers said it’s difficult for the coaching staff to evaluate any of the three. They’ve seen them participate with the scout team, but that typically involves planned throws to designated areas, not reading defenses.
“You don’t rep your number three quarterback, you don’t rep your number four quarterback, you barely rep your number two quarterback,” Babers said. “We understand who they were out of high school … (and) we’re slowly watching and seeing some glimpses of them.”
Nevertheless, three losses in four ACC games leaves concerns regarding the rest of Syracuse’s 2020 season. With so many injuries to key players and games remaining against No. 1 Clemson, Louisville, NC State and No. 4 Notre Dame, the Orange may be starting reserves against future NFL draft picks.
When asked what Orange fans should think about the season so far, he pointed back to the latest loss.
“I would say, think about Duke and what they did to us,” he said.
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