As Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers works to install his system during spring practices, he's moving away from a lot of traditional football conventions. Most notably among the changes might be the fact that Babers doesn't distribute a playbook to the players. So how does the coach expect his new team to pick up their assignments, the play calls, and the hand signals? Well, as he told Stephen Bailey from Syracuse.com, he'd rather they learn by watching and doing.
"You learned football on Xbox where you could actually choose your team and control your players," Babers said. "You grew up in a visual age. That's how we teach these guys, is the way they grew up. We don't make them read, which is the way we grew up."
As people in education will tell you we all learn in different manners. This generation of students is a lot more comfortable with the involvement of visual learning techniques. Instead of asking players to memorize plays on paper and then translate that to on-field performance, Babers is trying to capitalize on the approach that is more familiar to them. If it ends up with Syracuse making plays like this one, I don't think anyone will complain with the methods used (especially if it involves getting the ball to Steve Ishmael often):
Players like Ishmael and Omari Palmer seem to be getting accustomed to the change in philosophy as the Orange attempt to increase tempo on the offensive side of the ball.
"It's really a matter of repetition and focus because when you're out there on the field you don't want to think too much," Ishmael said. "That's when your mind gets clouded."
"I wouldn't say it's necessarily complex," Palmer said. "I would just say it's fast. This is a lot faster than we're used to."
During practices, Babers preaches repetition and has said he doesn't stop to correct mistakes on the field, that is left for the film room. In film sessions players are expected to take detailed notes. However they aren't taking notes based on concepts, they are getting constructive feedback on their own performances running the plays. Eric Dungey thinks the system will take a little while to master but as players adjust to the new methods they expect it the offense to improve.
"It's rough learning a new offense so quick," Dungey said. "It's fast. They don't slow down at all, but as practices go on it'll get better and better."
Like Ishmael said, the goal is to make things become natural for the players so they rely on instincts instead of trying to figure out what they need to do during a play. This will allow Syracuse to play fast and be effective doing so. Despite all the talk about speed, the staff isn't ignoring the fundamentals, which this next clip (which I can imagine warms John Cassillo's heart to watch) shows.
It will be interesting to hear from Babers when the Orange start pre-season practices in August. From his comments, you get the sense that he expects a noticeable improvement from the players after a summer of applying what they've learned thus far.