Until the Syracuse Orange have a new football coach, we'll be previewing candidates that may be up for the job. One of these individuals might be leading the program. Or maybe it's someone else entirely. Sometimes we're wrong. Sorry.
Who's this guy?
Where is he right now?
Bowling Green. He's been the head coach of the Falcons for the past two seasons since they hired him to replace Dave Clawson (who moved on to Wake Forest). Bowling Green's won the last three MAC East titles (last two under Babers), and is playing for the league championship this coming weekend.
Where else has he been?
After hanging it up as a player for Hawaii, Babers became a grad assistant with the Rainbow Warriors in 1984. In the 31 years since, he hasn't moved up the ladder "quickly" per se, but moving around a bunch has seemingly created a lot of opportunities for him to advance. Without just posting a blanket list of jobs:
Spent two years (1988-89) handling special teams and running backs at UNLV before moving on to Northern Arizona for a brief stop en route to Purdue, where he coached wide receivers from 1991-93. He headed back west to San Diego State for a year, then served on the Arizona staff from 1995-2000, with the latter three years as offensive coordinator and QB coach.
After two years handling the offense and QBs for Texas A&M, he took a slight step back to be Pitt's running backs coach in 2003, then handled running backs and quarterbacks for UCLA from 2004-2007. Four more years at Baylor handling recruiting, wide receivers and special teams landed him at Eastern Illinois (where he'd already coached running backs in 1987). Two playoff seasons (including a 12-2 record in 2013) led to him getting hired by Bowling Green.
What do current fans think of him?
They're certainly fans of winning, which Babers has done plenty of since taking over last fall.
Prevailing thoughts seem to be focused on the fact that Babers has added even more speed to Clawson's old offense, running a quarterback-centric spread that's hell-bent on out-scoring opponents. He's so speed-obsessed that he replaced speed limit signs around BGSU's campus.
Back in October, USA Today's Paul Myerberg explained how Babers' system has elevated the play of several former QBs. Particularly, he dives into how he worked to turn Jimmy Garappolo into an NFL passer, and has current QB Matt Johnson putting up huge numbers as well. His system was also a large part of Baylor's attack with both Robert Griffin III and Bryce Petty. Count BGSU's Johnson among Babers fans and supporters, though. He says:
"(Babers) could've very easily went to wherever and that quarterback would be doing the same thing."
Random fun fact:
Maybe not necessarily "fun," but Babers did rescue a driving from a burning car this fall. More to that story: he was helped after a car crash in the snow in 1987, and helping the driver this year was a way for him to repay the favor 28 years later.
Six degrees of Syracuse:
Might as well call this "six degrees of Tom Coughlin." Babers served on the 2003 Pitt Panthers football team as a running backs coach. One of the grad assistants on that team? Ben McAdoo. McAdoo was later hired as the New York Giants' offensive coordinator in 2014, under former Syracuse player and coach Tom Coughlin.
Advantages to hiring him?
As was the case with Scott Frost, the answer's offense. Bowling Green has scored over 44 points per game this season, along with 566 yards per game -- good for fourth and third in the country, respectively.
We always talk about how much an up-tempo attack could do wonders at the Carrier Dome, and Babers would be able to put that theory into action.
Taking a look at the Falcons' roster, Babers has been able to mine talent in nearby states (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois) as well as Florida to fill out the roster. Some of that's holdover from the Clawson era, of course, but there are several young players from the sunshine state just entering their careers under Babers. You'd imagine with the right assistants and more access to Florida (and Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia too), he'd be able to continue getting into talent-rich areas.
He's also amassed a large network of coaching associates and connections over the course of his career, along with a history of successful QBs (mentioned above). You have to be salivating at the prospect of an Eric-Dungey led offense airing it out to Steve Ishmael and others next year, right?
All of that, along with head coaching experience, point to a successful way forward to both build a staff and a roster.
Drawbacks to hiring him?
He's not a "Northeast guy" at all, so that's probably a knock for some. The fact that he's so willing to move around also means he won't be long for Syracuse if things go well. The lack of emphasis on defense sounds slightly concerning, but then again, this year's team was counting on its defense and they failed miserably.
Babers isn't "young" or "old," which could sway some folks one way or the other. He's also one of the hottest names on the market right now, which means he'll need more money to lure him to Syracuse over some other potential suitors.
Odds it happens?
Unfortunately, probably not all that high. Rumors were heating up about Babers-to-UCF yesterday, but the coach went to Twitter to shoot them down himself. That doesn't mean he's NOT leaving, mind you. Or even that he's not leaving for UCF eventually. But it'll be at least a week before he goes anywhere else.
If we start hearing that the UCF rumors are dead, maybe the odds go up from the current 5-10 percent I'd peg them at. But for now, consider the possibility low even if the upside for him is pretty high at Syracuse and most of us would very much be in favor of him getting the job and at least creating an entertaining football product.