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Syracuse Football: Dino Babers talks Etta-Tawo, new staff positions and improving the running game

Babers hopped on the ACC Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday. Here’s what he had to say.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse football coach Dion Babers appeared on the ACC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday morning in his final address to the media until the start of next season in August. Babers touched upon a wide array of topics, from the NFL Draft to improving his offense.

Let’s get right to it.

Don’t Doubt Amba

...That was the message Babers has for NFL scouts and general managers who may be wary of drafting former Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo after his breakout season last year.

Etta-Tawo set the Syracuse single-season record for receptions (94), receiving yards (1,482) and receiving yards per game (123.5) last season, but scouts have concerns about his production being a fluke due to his failed three-year stint at Maryland, problems with drops and the fact he isn’t an experienced route runner.

Babers, however, disagrees, saying “the proof is in the pudding” when judging the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Etta-Tawo as a NFL prospect.

“He’s 4.4 or 4.3 (referencing Etta-Tawo’s 40-yard dash times), a track star and a good body for a wide receiver,” Babers said. “He’s made plays against everybody.”

“Help Me, Help You”

Despite losing former Orange running backs coach Mike Hart to Indiana, and linebackers and special teams coach Tom Kaufman to Chattanooga, overall, Babers has exponentially expanded his staff since he took over more than a year ago, including recently adding former NFL scout Dave Boller as Syracuse’s director of player personnel – a brand new position Syracuse previously never had on its football staff.

In total, since taking over as head coach more than a year ago, Babers has added at least five new positions to his staff, according to Syracuse.com’s Chris Carlson. Babers said Syracuse was “really far behind” other top football programs in terms of the amount of resources available to him, and increasing his staff is the first step towards competing with those schools.

“If you want to beat them,” Babers said, “you have to level the playing field to give us the opportunity, to give us a chance.”

Run, Forrest Syracuse, Run

Anyone who watched Syracuse play last season knows the Orange struggled to run the ball. Syracuse finished ranked near the bottom in every major rushing category, including both yards per attempt (3.2, ranked No. 123) and yards per game (119.6, ranked No. 115).

Despite months of practice, those struggles were once again there for all to see during Syracuse’s Spring Showcase last week, as Orange running backs totaled just 33 yards on 18 attempts – an average of just 1.8 yards per carry.

Babers isn’t blind to his team’s struggles running the ball, and knows the unit must improve in order to take some of the weight off of quarterback Eric Dungey’s shoulders.

“I think there’s no doubt we have to better in the run game,” Babers said. “You can't throw the ball every down and be consistently good. You can be occasionally great.”

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One potential bright spot for Syracuse’s rushing attack is the fact that Babers also said he believes offensive lineman Aaron Roberts “will be fine” after the redshirt sophomore was forced out of action during the spring game with an apparent injury to his right arm. He chose not to elaborate any further and reveal any specifics.