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All-ACC voting shows Syracuse culture change in Dino Babers’s first year

It’s a good start, anyway.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

All-conference team voting is always fraught with second-guessing, questions and calls of bias -- especially in the North Carolina-centric ACC. Things were no different for the league on Monday, when some Syracuse Orange players were left off the year-end honors in favor of those in the “traditional” league footprint.

One of the most vocal critics was SU’s own Ervin Philips, who took to Twitter himself to make the case, and spent some time retweeting support for his inclusion. He wasn’t wrong, by the way.

All of the doubts over balloting aside, however, the All-ACC team voting can yield some insights on the outside perception and progress of a football program. Take this year, for instance, when six Syracuse players received at least an honorable mention on the list:

  • Amba Etta-Tawo (1st team)
  • Brisly Estime (2nd team)
  • Zaire Franklin (3rd team)
  • Sterling Hofrichter (3rd team)
  • Ervin Philips (honorable mention)
  • Parris Bennett (honorable mention)

That’s more than the last two seasons combined (four total). And it also surpasses the previous program high in the ACC of five, set back in 2013. That year, SU had four players named to the second and third teams, plus one honorable mention.

You can see the trend in perception pretty clearly. Coming off a third bowl-eligible season in four years back in 2013, there was some praise for SU, but unfamiliarity to conference media may have held them back a bit. For 2014 and 2015, the team wasn’t just bad. It was barely watchable at times, and the coaching staff certainly had no love loss for the media. The media votes on this list, by the way...

Now that isn’t to hammer Scott Shafer’s tenure, either. He was still responsible for bringing in a bunch of the kids on this year’s and previous years’ lists. So it wasn’t a question of talent. But rather a question of that talent equaling results on the field — and results worth taking note of, most of all. The W-L record may have been the same in 2015 and 2016. The teams and their perceived quality, however were not.

Dino Babers has already won over much of the local and national media over the past 12 months at Syracuse, and that’s reflected in positive progress in sort of meaningless things like the All-ACC vote. Now the real work starts, though. And charisma, charm and a positive attitude (all of which Dino has in droves) take a backseat to the results they lead to.

This is a culture change, both inside and out, around the perception of Syracuse football. It started with Dino’s arrival and a different way of doing things. The next step was more entertaining football and a decent amount of players honored on the all-conference team (including Etta-Tawo’s first-team selection, a program first in the ACC). After that, the wins should arrive and then getting excited about some Orange players making all-conference honors will be a thing of the past.

Here’s to the next step in the progression.