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ACC Coaches Teleconference: Dino talks bye week, NFL, Chris Slayton

It might be a bye week but Dino still had a fair amount to speak about.

Syracuse v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

As Pitt brought in the game ending interception last Saturday, signs of pessimism crept in for the Syracuse Orange. It’s natural, though, for a team that was 4-3 last year after beating Clemson and proceeded to lose five straight. Yet, head coach Dino Babers is keeping his eyes straight and not in the rear view mirror.

Is Dino always optimistic?

Every week when he speaks to the media, Dino preaches how his team is not looking behind and only forward. After losing to Clemson, he talked about how his team learned from its mistakes and wouldn’t do the same against Pitt. And yet, after SU allowed Pannther running back Qadree Ellison to bulldoze its linebackers en route to 192 yards, here Dino is, as optimistic as ever.

“I’m not down on this football team,” he said. “I mean, you can pick and choose your moments, but you’re talking about a 4-2 football team at the start of both the games they lost, they were winning in the fourth quarter. Now, that part is disappointing. But to be ahead of a Pitt team at home and be ahead of a Clemson team at home at the start -- at away games at the start of the fourth quarter tells you how close this team is.”

He’s not wrong that this team has had its disappointments, it could easily be 6-0 if it didn’t choke away two fourth quarter leads. Perhaps I’m just cynical, but this is concerning to me. I understand both were on the road and one as the No. 2 team in the country, but allowing two consecutive fourth quarter comebacks is worrisome. The defense has looked exhausted and tired both times and I’m not sure how Babers will adjust to that if the team won't rotate in additional bodies.

Chris Slayton is the key to the defensive line

The Orange front four is perhaps its best unit, the one that sparks the performance of the secondary and the linebackers. When Chris Slayton, juniors Alton Robinson, and Kendall Coleman, are hitting the quarterback, the Orange defense performs substantially better. Against Florida State and UConn, SU sacked the quarterback three more times than it did against Clemson and Pitt. Babers understands this and credits Slayton’s ability to eat up two blockers as one of the reasons.

“Chris Slayton, our 3 technique inside, we don’t even use his name around here, we just call him 3 technique,” he said. “He is an NFL 3 technique, and when that guy is inside, he demands a double. If you do not double him, he will hit your quarterback. And then on the other side, we have McKinley Williams, who does a fantastic job for us, as well, in the 1 technique, and those guys are so big and so strong inside that they demand that the center works those three -- the center and the two guys work with those two down guys.”

On the year, Slayton has 10 total tackles and one sack, but it’s what he does to free up guys like Robinson and Coleman that is more impressive. He’ll take on two blockers and provide the ends with ample opportunities to reach the quarterback. This is a large reason why Robinson is seventh in the country in sacks.

College is better than the NFL, at least to Dino

Not surprisingly, a college coach who loves up-tempo and creative play calling, prefers college football to the pros. Even as spread offense and other schematic ideas derived from college have made their way to the NFL, Babers still prefers football on Saturdays to football on Sundays.

“I think we’ve got a lot of rules, and whatever those guys decide is the best interest of the game, we’ll abide by them,” he said. “Right now I think the most exciting game there is when it comes to football is college football. I know people like the pros, but I think there’s nothing more exciting than college football, so I think that our rules may be more conducive to the fans and having a more exciting game than maybe even the NFL.”

Perhaps he is referencing the awful roughing the passer penalties levied by NFL referrees at the beginning of the season or maybe it’s just that he believes college is more exciting, but Babers is right. While the NFL clearly has more talent and athleticism, the schemes in college football are more exciting. Games are higher scoring, there’s more big plays, and quarterbacks aren’t afraid to actually run the ball. Maybe it’s just Babers and I on this, but there’s just something special about college football.