Despite only being on the line for 10 minutes, new Syracuse Orange football head coach Dino Babers addressed several various topics while appearing on the 2016 ACC Football Coaches Spring Media Teleconference Wednesday.
While he attempted to keep the conversation mostly about football and his players' development, he did answer a few questions regarding the recent incident involving former Syracuse player Naesean Howard allegedly stabbing ex-teammates, and current players, Chauncey Scissum and Corey Winfield.
In his opening remarks, Babers said he was very impressed with the team throughout the spring, saying players did a "fantastic" job trying to learn and adopt to an entirely new system. "I thought the entire spring period was a rebirth, trying to teach new offenses and new defenses to these young men" Babers said.
Babers, however, reiterated his stance once more that the job is not done yet. "We've got a lot of growth that we need to move forward with, with this football team...Once we get them back in two-a-days we'll try to find out exactly where we're at and what we're capable of doing in the fall."
Goals? What Goals?
When attempting to improve and accomplish a task, it is common to set a few goals to help you along the way. Babers, however, would disagree with that statement. When asked what his goals were for the upcoming season, Babers rebuffed the question, saying, "You know, I've never set goals." Instead of setting goals, Babers said he plans to simply continue to have his players work hard and develop and hope they improve by the end of the season.
"We don't like to set goals," Babers said. "We just want to make sure we get better every day. And hopefully by getting better, somewhere by the season's end we're good enough."
Article Telling Players Not To Wear Syracuse Gear Was "Inaccurate"
Hours prior to the teleconference, Syracuse.com ran a story saying Babers held a meeting with players to address the recent stabbing and necessary safety measures to take. One of the safety measures mentioned was that Babers reportedly told his players not to wear any Syracuse football clothing out in public due to rumors Naesean Howard's associates may be looking to potentially attack them.
Outside of the team meeting, which did take place but was actually previously scheduled–nothing prompted it, Babers described the rest of the story as false and inaccurate. "I actually told them to put their Syracuse 'S' on and wear it proudly around campus," Babers said.
On Naesean Howard
Babers said his initial encounter with Howard took place in a parking lot. The former Syracuse defensive back approached Babers outside his car and told Babers he would like to re-join the team. Babers, who didn't recognize Howard nor know who he was, responded, "Who are you?" After speaking briefly, Babers instructed Howard to talk to another coach on the staff and they would consider his request.
While Babers said he does believe in giving people, and players, second chances to right their wrongs and overcome past mistakes, after reviewing Howard's history and his pattern of reoccurring incidents, he and his staff decided against giving Howard the opportunity to potentially re-join the program.
"When you see a pattern, patterns are something that you need to try and stay away from," Babers said. "And we just decided as a staff that the pattern was too strong, that we needed to not give him an opportunity. It's not a right to be on a football team, it's a privilege."
Safety Measures In Relation to Stabbing
Outside of trying to not walk alone, Babers said the main safety measure he instructed his players to take was common sense. "It's no different then making sure you look both ways before stepping off of a curb so you don't get hit by a bus," Babers said.
Babers also said he told his players to not be afraid and to try to go on living their lives. "You can't live life looking over your shoulder," Babers said. "You have to live life. You can't be afraid to live it. And I think these young men will be just fine, and I think the university will be just fine."
Babers still refused to name a starting quarterback, surprisingly saying that no quarterback has a "lead" or has separated himself from the rest of the pack. "I think that the next three-to-four months are going to be critical to see who is going to be the primary snap-taker at that position," Babers said.
While all four quarterbacks–Eric Dungey, Zack Mahoney, Austin Wilson and Rex Clupepper–took snaps during the spring game April 2, Dungey, last year's starter, took the clear majority and had a dominating performance. Dungey finished the afternoon completing 27 of 33 passes for 297 yards and seven touchdowns. He threw only a single interception.
However, Babers said it doesn't matter how someone performs in April, the only thing that matters is how he performs come September. "One thing that we are always going to do here at Syracuse University is play the best player, no matter what," Babers said. "Regardless of where you were at in April, the best player will step on the field the first game against Colgate that night."