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Film review: Episode 1 of Syracuse football’s ‘La Familia’

Just in case you didn’t already have enough to watch.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2001, NFL Films and HBO premiered “Hard Knocks,” perhaps the most in-depth look inside the inner workings of a team and how they come together in advance of the upcoming season. Since then, it’s only improved and seen plenty of produced shows made in its likeness, with pro and college teams alike trying out the story-telling format.

As of Tuesday night, you can now count Syracuse Orange football among them (ignoring this 2014 effort on our part, of course).

La Familia” premiered on Cuse TV (YouTube), and will be there every Tuesday night for the next few weeks. Coming off of a 10-3 campaign that put the Orange back on the national radar, it’s a smart way to build hype around 2019 and also introduce fans to a lot of the key faces for this year. Below, we review episode one a bit.

Great start. Also worth noting that Dino’s “La Familia” uses the Spanish spelling and not the Italian “La Famiglia.” For some reason, had sort of assumed the latter — Tommy DeVito likely did as well. Dino Babers uses “la familia” and “Ohana” pretty interchangeably to this point, so perhaps we see him lean into “la familia” going forward from a #BRAND perspective.

Nice rec room, ‘Cuse. That very tall human is walk-on lineman Ryan Kisselstein. He’s 6-foot-6, so plenty of guys on the basketball team are taller. But in this shot, he just seems to tower over the rest of the room and it was worth noting.

Senior running back Moe Neal is the narrator for the first half or so of the episode, mostly from a barber’s chair. Positive, energetic and with an apparent knack for Syracuse’s “story” here, Moe’s great in this role and you have to wonder where they’ve been keeping him for the last three years. He’s a personality, and one that we’ll likely see a lot more of this summer and this season.

Hearing more about his difficult upbringing was great, and in general, this felt like the most we’d learned about the North Carolina running back since he got to campus. He wears No. 21 for former TCU (and mostly Chargers) running back LaDainian Tomlinson — a player he looked up to as a kid and wants to emulate now. Neal is aiming to rush for 1,000 yards this season.

Also notably, Moe thinks he’s one of the best Madden players on the team. However, Kyle Strickland and Trill Williams also seem like they’re vying for the title.

Tfw you think you’re so good at Madden that you’ll choose the Giants to prove a point (/sobs).

The obligatory weight room scene shows off the facilities and also points out just how much time this team spends there. Keith Caton is at the whiteboard above and looks like exactly what you’d expect from a strength and conditioning coach.

Speaking of weight rooms: DeVito is looking bigger and definitely seems like he’s on his way to attending the Eric Dungey School of Having Almost Comically Large Muscles.

From there, we move onto the film room, where Chris Fredrick and Andre Cisco take us through the Florida State game a bit, interspersed with highlights called by Matt Park.

First, should this be the image for all future “La Familia” breakdowns? It very much looks like the defensive backs are sharing some in-depth opinions on the lighting and sound for one of 2020’s Best Foreign Short Film nominees.

Also, Fredrick’s nickname is “Frizzle” — did we know this? — and he says “I don’t feel right unless I watch at least two or three games of my opponent,” which is encouraging.

The film room feature is cool in general, as it introduces some of the inner workings of that preparation process and also gives us more on Fredrick and Cisco than we’ve seen to this point in their respective Syracuse careers.

Using the FSU game as the catalyst here is a good one too, as it tells a great story about last season before we really knew what it was, and also serves as an excuse to show just how much Syracuse’s pass rush absolutely obliterated the Seminoles’ line and Deondre Francois.

Rather than show the extended Dino Babers locker room speech following the Florida State highlights, we get this quote from Fredrick, which is good perspective in hindsight: “Felt like we’re finally here, ready to compete in the ACC.”


Next week, they’ll be showcasing the uniform unveiling and I’m sure some more of last season’s top highlights. Let us know if you want to see more recaps of these, or if we should just let them exist on their own.