We’ve never shied away from talking about how hard it is to recruit for the Syracuse Orange football team. In a Q&A with (former SU football recruiting director) Asil Mulbah, now of the Buffalo Bills, Nate Mink was able to glean more insights about just how difficult this can better than anyone in recent memory. Read the whole thing, but selected quotes are below, along with some thoughts.
On the transition his staff had to make upon Dino Babers’ arrival at ‘Cuse
”I thought it was definitely an uphill battle. The facilities weren’t ideal, but not only that, the staff and minions, the guys that are on the ground either going through tape or collecting transcripts, doing all the smaller-level jobs that coaches don’t have time to do because they’re doing Xs and Os and all that stuff and helping them get organized, I just thought we were lacking as a staff.”
There’s been a lot of talk around what being in year five means for Dino. Back in the day, Bill C. and the crew at Podcast Ain’t Played nobody often talked about “Year 0” for coaches coming into a situation that required an overhaul, both on and off the field. This seems to confirm that was the case for Babers, and that first year was really more about changing the off-the-field coaching culture as much as any on-the-field result.
One prime example of this is how bad the locker room looked during the Virginia Tech speech, and how that immediately spurred an upgrade for the following season.
This also hits at how little Daryl Gross’s athletic department cared about supporting football from a facilities and resources standpoint, as well as a smart scheduling standpoint (/John nods in disappointment). Scott Shafer wasn’t perfect, and did hire a slew of inexperienced coaches to roles that made his job even harder. But the primary struggle he faced was potentially SU itself, and the difficulties the job comes with no matter who’s on staff. His decisions just happened to exacerbate all of that.
On the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean Lewis:
“Losing Sean was a big deal. I think the most critical position to every recruiting class is the quarterback position. He’s usually the face of the class, and not only that, the quarterback helps you recruit the rest of the class, if you’re getting the right guy. You want your guy being a leader, can relate to a bunch of people and get everyone together, and that’s what Tommy DeVito did for us. He was Trill Williams’s host on his official visit.”
We knew Lewis was something special based on the success he’s had as head coach at Kent State, but there’s another couple of paragraphs after this quote that are worth a read. Essentially, Dino’s recruiting process for QBs differs from any position, and that recruitment process is run by offensive coordinator.
What does that have to do with now? Aside from QB depth being a glaring issue, SU is now on its third OC since Dino started — Lewis, Mike Lynch and now Sterlin Gilbert — and you can start to see how that depth became an issue. With no one leading the recruitment process, which takes more time, by the time things are in order, many players are already off the board. Top quarterbacks usually commit earlier in recruiting cycles and also flip commitments less than other positions due to there only being only so many QB roles available.
There are a lot more nuggets of interest worth reading about within Mink’s story, including how Chance Amie ended up on campus instead of Brock Purdy, how Andre Cisco’s journey to Syracuse actually started at a camp at Wake Forest, and the overall philosophy of Syracuse recruiting.
Many people will pull out some quotes and use it as indictment or absolute, but that’s not what I’m trying to do here.
This interview with a successful football talent evaluator (who used to work at Syracuse) provides plenty of evidence to back up claims many other football writers and analysts have said about the Orange program; the infrastructure inherently makes recruiting difficult, and the system employed to to overcome that structural weakness means there’s little room for error. That’s especially unfortunately when you’re “stuck” recruiting a specific type of player, as Syracuse has been on both sides of the ball to varying degrees under Babers.
Again, read the whole thing and kudos to Nate for an excellent interview.