ACC Football Kickoff began on Wednesday. For those wondering what that is, it’s media days, but the conference simply refuses to call them that. Not my fault. Blame #BRAND.
The Coastal Division went on Wednesday, and now the Atlantic Division is up on Thursday. At which point, Syracuse Orange coach Dino Babers will take the stage to field a host of questions from the assembled media members. Orange seniors Eric Dungey and Chris Slayton will also be there, with some inquiries headed their way as well.
So in advance of SU’s moment in the spotlight, what are 10 questions that should be asked? (including maybe the #jokesandgarbage requests TNIAAM would toss out there as well...)
1. Something about Eric Dungey’s health...
This is the obligatory ask of both Babers and the senior QB. We’ll hear about his recovery from a foot injury this offseason, how he’s put on some additional weight to deal with the hits and then of course, Dungey will mention that he’s going to try to run less. Babers will double down on that and say he hopes that’s the case as well. We’ll get a great quip about Dungey’s importance within the offense that we’ll utilize for the rest of the season.
2. What about the late-season collapses?
As Bill Connelly mentioned in his annual preview, things are improving under Babers. However, the late-season collapses are a bit of a theme, even if they can be explained away by Dungey’s lack of health at Syracuse. Someone’s likely to bring this up. I’m pretty curious to hear how Babers addresses it.
3. Is the defense going to improve?
After season one which was largely a disaster, season two at least hinted at progress for the first half until Jordan Martin’s injury. The last half of 2017 looked like more of the same, and at least began to cast some doubts on whether this Tampa-2 system actually works for the Orange. Replacing all the linebackers certainly makes it tougher to prove that false. Hopefully there are some potential solutions offered up down in Charlotte — if not by Babers, then maybe Slayton.
4. Related: So about this 4-2-5 switch...
As discussed yesterday, Syracuse goes to a base 4-2-5/Nickel defense, in part due to the aforementioned loss of linebackers. The idea is to make the defense more disruptive, and also better use the Orange’s personnel. Without defensive coordinator Brian Ward there, it would be great to hear more about the thought process toward changing it up, beyond just the stock coach-speak. The move doesn’t really affect Slayton, though his perspective will be a welcome one just the same.
5. How do you replace Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips?
Babers isn’t one to offer up too much praise for unproven entities, but to make everyone feel a little more comfortable with the future, he may have to here. We took some guesses on who may qualify on Tuesday. Ravian Pierce leads the list, followed by Nykeim Johnson and Devin Butler (among others).
6. Is it weird having your son-in-law on the roster?
Texas A&M grad transfer Koda Martin is Babers’s son-in-law (and Koda’s dad, Kirk, is also on the coaching staff). That’s not a typical dynamic for any head coach, and someone’s surely going to inquire about it, especially now that Martin’s the starting right tackle.
7. What movie would Babers use to describe this season?
This one’s from us (feel free to use it, attending media). Dino’s always one to grab at a cinematic reference when it suits the situation. What will he go with? A comedy, horror, drama? Maybe sci-fi is the best call... though that genre is the specialty of the guy that used to run this place more than Babers.
8. Who’s next on the upset list after Virginia Tech, Clemson?
While the last two years have both ended in 4-8 records, there have also been some major upsets along the way. So who’s the new victim this time around? Clemson and Florida State are there, as is Notre Dame. It’s unlikely Louisville’s top-25 come November, but sure, add them to the list as well.
9. Which characters from Infinity War match up to certain players on the Orange roster?
Another movie thing. Surely Dino’s seen one of the biggest hit movies of the year. I’m not one for Game of Thrones, so this is much more in line with opinions I’d press Babers for. Off the top of my head: Dungey’s Iron Man, Slayton’s the Hulk, Antwan Cordy is Captain America, Moe Neal is Spiderman, and... I could probably write a whole article on this topic.
10. How does Babers define success in 2018?
This is not a question Dino’s likely to answer easily or comfortably, but it’s one worth asking him. Many fans may say bowl or bust. I’d say five wins is sort of the minimum, with some key signs of progress in terms of efficiency on both sides of the ball. Coaches aren’t ones to set a high bar for risk of falling short. Let’s see if he’s willing to break that rule a bit — at least somewhat.
Any other questions you want to see tossed toward Babers & co. in Charlotte? Share them below, and don’t worry, we’ll be ranking suits later on today too, as is tradition at this point.