Dino Babers, Eric Dungey, and Chris Slayton are in Charlotte for ACC Media Days. This afternoon, the Syracuse Orange trio held its press conference to preview the season. Here are some of the highlights, from all three SU representatives.
Q. Eric, having the fastest tempo offense in the country, every 21.1 seconds snapping the ball, what can you say about being a part of the fastest tempo and Dino getting to where he wanted to go essentially with making sure that it was the fastest. And then secondly, what you think about Dontae and Moe running the ball this year?
“I think Coach will always tell you it’s not fast enough, so that’s what he’s going to tell us. That’s what he’s been harping on us, and for our practices that’s what I’ve been trying to do, I’ve just been trying to up the tempo even faster because the faster we go, the better it goes. And then Moe and Dontae, I can’t say enough good things about them. Moe has really transformed his body. He came in a little bit small but he’s been really putting on weight. Every week in the weight room he’s been PR’ing, whether it’s bench squat or hang clean. And Dontae, he’s just a veteran, so he’s savvy, he runs hard, you know what you’re going to get out of him. He’s been one of my best friends since I’ve been here been. Been through it all together, so I’m looking forward to seeing how those guys go at it.”
Orange is the new fast likely still the motto. Don’t know how much faster the offense could get, maybe that one second is the difference in those close games at the end of the year.
Q. So many schools now have dual-threat quarterbacks, and that’s led to some really explosive offenses, especially in the Atlantic Division. In your case, you’re Syracuse’s leading runner. How much fun do you have running the football? What makes you running quarterbacks so difficult to stop, and what’s the risk reward?
“You know, running the football is real fun. It’s just kind of one of those things -- I’m a competitive person, so I want to do what I’ve got to do to win. “
Dungey: "Running the football's real fun."— NunesMagician.com (@NunesMagician) July 19, 2018
“...If you have a dual-threat quarterback, you kind of have to account for another person to watch him, so it kind of limits the pass game. And if you’re going to have more people in the pass game, you can run the ball a little easier. If you’ve got a savvy quarterback who understands coverages and stuff like that, you’re always a man up with that.”
Well, you’re a man up until the man goes down. Sound familiar?
Q. Between Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips you lost about 2,200 receiving yards. Who would you say are the next Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips?
“Well, in my sophomore year, you guys were saying, You lost Amba, so what are you going to do next? And then Steve and Irv stepped up, so people saying the same thing. I’m still waiting to see that. But like I say, I see a lot of young guys. We’ve got four or five guys in my mind that I think could be those next guys. Obviously somebody is going to catch the ball, so we’ve just got to wait and see who it is.”
Solid, optimistic answer from Eric, but the difference this year is that but Ervin Phillips and Steve Ishmael were known entities heading into last season. The most known entities this year are Jamal Custis, who is supposedly about to finally break out for the third consecutive season, and Devin Butler, who had a pretty bad case of the drops last season (plus Ravian Pierce at tight end).
Q. Chris, you lost a lot of linebackers with the defense; what can you tell us about guys like (Kielan) Whitner and (Ryan) Guthrie who are going to play behind you this year?
“They’re vets. They fill in Zaire and Parris Bennett’s shoes. Those are big shoes to fill, but our young linebackers, they’re young and aggressive, and it’s only going to help us out a lot.”
The entire starting linebacker corps from last season graduated, but it appears that Slayton has given a vote of confidence to the men set to fill in, albeit with very few words.
Q. The last win for the team came back on October 13th. That’s a long time to sit with that. How do you reconcile all of what 2017 was as you prep for 2018?
“You know, going back to last season, we obviously didn’t finish strong, as strong as we would like. But that’s been the whole focal point for this off-season, just starting off strong and then just continuing to fight and finishing the season off strong.”
I guess that’s an answer?
Q. Coach, two years ago you came in saying you guys were going to be fast. Last year it was even faster. What would you say is going to be the motto for this team this year?
“You know, I think the motto needs to be that we’re doing everything we can to bring a good football team into the month of November.”
I see you’ve read Bill Connelly’s work.
“It’s really important for us to find a way not only to stay true to our motto to play fast but to also find a way to finish and to finish the month off November the way we’ve played September and October.”
Dino staying true to the motto but circling the obvious mission for the team this season. Syracuse upset Clemson in the Dome last season and didn’t win a single game after that. Carrying strength throughout the season would be huge for the team.
Q. I was curious to get your thoughts on the new redshirt rule, allowing guys to play in up to four games while maintaining their redshirt status. Just general thoughts, and is there any kind of feeling that it would have been perfect to have last year?
“Let me do the latter. It would have been real good last year. I’ll just leave it at that.”
(waves at Tommy DeVito)
“I think for everyone to believe that all these freshmen are going to get an opportunity to automatically play four games in their freshman year is not true. If you have an opportunity to have a game where you get to put other people in the game, your first responsibility is to the depth of your football team. So if the ones aren’t out there, you need to put the twos out there.”
So I think the rule will flow. I think it will adjust every year. I think it’s a fantastic rule. I really do. And I think it’s something that we needed in college football based off of the injuries that we’ve been having later on in the season and the type of people that we’ve been putting out on the football field.
Very long-winded response here from Babers. He states the obvious, without hinting at the exact words, that it probably would have been nice to be able to play DeVito last season when Dungey went down late in the year. He did give an interesting answer on its application that many people haven’t heard before, but it definitely makes a lot of sense, although a team with Syracuse’s depth might get forced into that tough spot with injuries at certain positions.
Q. So today is your birthday?
Q. Do you feel older today?
“Oh, no, I don’t feel old. That’s a mental thing. No, I don’t feel old at all. But I wouldn’t want to spend it any other place except in front of you great people.”
Dino doing Dino things.
Q. Going off of what you had said a couple minutes ago, building and establishing depth, I know you spoke about the offensive and defensive line, but as you look across the roster going into your third season, what can you say about that depth and if it’s getting to where you want it to be at this point?
“It’s definitely heading in the right direction. I think that our two weakest positions I don’t need to throw out there. I think we have a weak one on offense as far as experience, and I think we have a weak one on defense as far as experience. But like once again, like Eric said when he was up there, from a talent standpoint, it’s the most talent we’ve had from senior to freshman since I’ve been there. Now, that doesn’t mean everybody is ready to play. Some of them, potentially they can be outstanding. But we all know what potential is going to get us. But if we keep seasoning it and keep training it and keep working on techniques and fundamentals and we get enough time, we’re going to be able to develop that. I’m anxious to get back to work on the 1st of August and see what we can come up with in the next 26 or 27 days before our first opponent to see if we can mature some of that talent to where we can have an outstanding season.”
Dino seems to hype up the wide receiver and linebacker corps while also dampening expectations at the same time. The biggest message from this answer is that Dino thinks this team could be dangerous in a year or two.
Q. This is your third season; what’s the most important thing you’ve learned going back to your first year compared to your year this year?
“Just how diverse the ACC is, how outstanding the coaches are in the ACC and the ACC Atlantic, and how difficult it is. This conference is no joke.”
Larry Fedora is one, however.
“I’ve been in the Big Ten. I’ve been in the Pac-12. I’ve been in the Pac-12 when it was the Pac-10. I’ve been in the Big 12. You know, coaches come up here and they read their lines and they try to reinforce their conference, and everybody does that, okay. This is no baloney cheese for me. This conference is a real football conference. And the diversity of the coaches and the different ways that they try to attack you, I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“So I think the brand of coaches are outstanding. Where we get our athletes from varies, but I think the type of athletes that we put on the football field are outstanding.”
I mean, this conference is as good a football conference as the top conferences in the country, and then when you throw the basketball side in there, it might be the conference in the country.