Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers talked to media on today’s ACC teleconference before Saturday’s home matchup against the Pittsburgh Panthers, . With a sense of desperation, he spoke about the tough outlook for the rest of the season.
Too many close games
With a 2-3 record on the year, Syracuse simply has not been able to close out games and make the key plays necessary to win. Easily, they could be at least 4-1 or 3-2 if they were able to make the necessary tackles, catches, or blocks against MTSU, LSU, or NC State.
Babers looked at the depth issues as one of the main culprits for this:
“When you don't have the depth that some of the other teams have, and as the season moves along, you get guys injured, out of your lineup, and you get new guys coming in that just don't have the experience or the strength or the age that some of the other people do, and that's going to be a while until we get our program up and running.”
That’s an honest critique of the issue, though the onus still lies a bit on the coaching staff to prepare the backups for action. The players can only play up to the coach’s expectations.
Yet, in only his second year, it is a tough to have a deep roster when he has only had one full year of recruiting. Beyond this season, hopefully the more time Babers has with the program will allow him to groom more talent behind the starters.
Babers has only positive things to say about Steve Ishmael
Perhaps the breakout player of the year for the Orange, senior Steve Ishmael currently leads the NCAA in receptions and is second in receiving yards. Coming off a season where he played second fiddle to Amba Etta-Tawo, his progression is quite remarkable.
“It's not unusual in our program to have somebody that was there the year before that had an okay year, and then all of a sudden they have a breakout year,” Babers said. “The thing I love about Ish is that he's totally bought into what we're trying to do, and he really changed his body and changed his attitude from last year to this year”
With the athletic level of defenses only increasing from here forward, it will be interesting to see how Ishmael performs against the elite corners of the ACC. Against NC State and LSU, he proved that his first three games were no fluke. But if he can continue this level against Clemson, Florida State, and Miami, he may be in line for quite a few end-of-year accolades.
Dino wants his team to run the ball and play hard-nosed defense
To anyone who’s watched Syracuse over the last two seasons, this may come as a surprise, but Babers is a fan of grit-n-grind football. He claims to want his team to have an intense and physical flavor. While the defensive aspect has improved this season, the run game has been absent, excluding the game against Central Michigan.
“I think that we want to play really, really good defense, and I think we will get to that,” Babers said.
“I love running the football, although people may not believe that in my first 16 or 17 games, and I think that you need to be a balanced offense, and that's something that we'll work desperately to achieve later, if not this year, then later on, and I think with that that you can play a style of offense that draws fans in and makes them want to come and watch you play and fill up those arenas.”
Well that sure does sound exciting, but achieving that level of football is no simple task. The work is cut out for Babers and his staff, as there is no real reason to believe the team will reach that point this season.