Three Takeaways from Spring Football Showcase

3 Takeaways from Spring Football Showcase

Published: April 15, 2018
Syracuse Football - Spring 2018 Showcase - April 13, 2018 - Player pushup while Coach Dino Babers looks on
Markenzy Pierre (22) on the turf following Spring Football Showcase 2018.

Syracuse concluded its spring practice season with the Spring Football Showcase on Friday night in the Carrier Dome. The showcase was a scrimmage between the offense and the defense that lasted for about 90 minutes.

Here are some main takeaways from the game.

Hello Tommy DeVito

Friday night’s contest was the first time Syracuse fans got to see Tommy DeVito play with a Syracuse jersey on. The quarterback was SU’s highest-rated 2017 recruit, but was redshirted his entire freshman season.

Returning starter Eric Dungey didn’t play in the spring game — he missed the last four games of the regular season with a foot injury and has just come back now — which meant DeVito led the first unit.

DeVito — along with nearly every other Syracuse QB — struggled to get much going. He took one shot deep down the right sideline to Jamal Custis, who had a cornerback matching him stride-for-stride, but the ball overshot them both. DeVito had more success throwing short screens to the outside than he did throwing over the middle.

Overall, he finished 8-of-15 for 58 yards. Head coach, Dino Babers, said postgame that he couldn’t assess DeVito’s performance yet, citing that he was too busy watching plays as with a whistle ready if the play needed to be stopped short.

“I really can’t recall much,” Babers said. “I need to get back and look at the tape.”

If I had a nickel

One of the strengths of the Orange defense last year was the linebackers. But Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett and Jonathan Thomas are all gone. All three starters would need to be replaced.

But for nearly the entire game on Friday, Syracuse didn’t run out three linebackers on defense. Instead, it played mostly in a nickel defense, which means having just two linebackers and five defensive backs instead of four.

When the first-string defense ran out, that meant Andrew Armstrong and Kielan Whitner, who is a converted safety, at linebacker. Then, returning corners Chris Fredrick and Scoop Bradshaw and returning safety Evan Foster also started. Rounding out the unit was freshman starting safety Andre Cisco and Antwan Cordy. Cordy played safety in 2015.

Cordy missed nearly all of the 2016 and 2017 seasons with an injury, and toyed with changing to slot receiver in the spring. On Friday, he played mostly as the third cornerback.

“It just depends on the packages,” Babers said when asked why so much nickel defense was played. “We were in a lot of 10 and 11 personnel (at least three wide receivers). Anytime you get in a lot of 10 and 11, you’re going to get a lot of nickel.”

 

Players meet fans

Rex’s Return

Quarterback Rex Culpepper was recently diagnosed with a treatable form of testicular cancer. He has finished one round of chemotherapy, and will be undergoing a second round shortly.

Culpepper asked Dino Babers earlier in the week if he could play in the spring game, and Babers had said no.

But Culpepper unexpectedly took the field for the last series, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd as he ran on. He embraced Babers and then went to work.

He led the offense on a quick five-play drive that ended with a touchdown to Ravian Pierce.

It was the most efficient offensive drive of the game. But it was also the best moment of the night.

“I didn’t want him to get hurt,” Babers said. “Let’s put it like this. He went out there and he threw the ball around a little bit. But the other 21 guys were under strict orders not to get close, or else.

“But it was good. It was a good moment for him.”

Avatar for Tomer Langer

is a contributor to The NewsHouse at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.