The Syracuse Orange did not have a great 2020 football season. A single win in a pandemic impacted season would normally be written off, however the program has continued to slide after a 10 win season that felt like a page being turned in the shiny new-ish ACC. While season is not a make or break year according to the Athletic Department, a media blacked out Spring session has fans asking a lot of questions that don’t seem to have happy answers when tossed around talk radio or comment sections.
Today at the ACC Football Kickoff, we got to hear from Head Coach Dino Babers and team leaders Taj Harris, Josh Black, and Aaron Servais as they fielded questions from across the ACC. As we’ve come to expect, there was not a ton of biting insight or deep knowledge of the program, but the basics were covered by all like...
What the heck is going on at QB?
Harris: The quarterback room is looking pretty good. It been looking good since I got here. Tommy pretty good, Shrader pretty good. But it’s not just those guys. JaCobian Morgan, Luke MacPhail, a bunch of young guys. I feel there are talented guys that can sling the ball.
Servais: Yeah, I mean, Garrett is definitely a talented guy. He’s actually my roommate right now, so I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with him. Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t really matter who’s behind us. Up front, if we can’t keep him standing upright, really doesn’t matter how talented they are. There’s definitely a lot of talent in that room. Good to see those guys competing. But we got to do our job up front so those guys can really shine.
Is the offensive line going to be improved?
Babers: I think the first thing is we need to call it exactly what it is. We had major injuries, domino effect of injuries in the offensive line. Most of them not on the football field. Most of them happening walking around campus. Just fluke things... We’ve had some changes. We’ve got some different coaches at some different positions. But I think the main difference is going to be that those guys are healthy, and we’re not going to be having a rotation of a bunch of young guys in there with some older guys. We’ll have an older group, and they’ll are ready to be. It always starts with the O-line and it always starts with the defensive line. You can’t be good in football if you’re not good at those two positions. Hopefully we’ve got the health that we need to have the season that we want.
Servais: Coach Schmidt has been great. He has made a couple tweaks and stuff technique-wise and scheme-wise. The biggest thing he’s brought to our offense and offensive line is a shift in mentality. We really want to get after guys, get off the ball, really attack me. So that’s what I’d say, yeah.
What steps have been taken to improve from last year’s one win campaign?
Black: One of the main reasons I came back is actually to lead this team. I’m not going to get up here and talk to everybody about what happened last year. I put a lot of responsibility for our season last year on myself personally just for not fulfilling the role that I needed to be. I needed to be a leader throughout the entire team. It’s easy to lead only your defensive line or your unit, but I didn’t reach out to the entire team. I needed to get everybody involved, and that’s where I put a lot of responsibility on myself personally. So that didn’t sit right to begin with with myself. Secondly, I can’t go out on a losing season. Just 1-10, those numbers are horrific. You look at that on paper, it like, Oh, man. Just something didn’t feel right, didn’t sit right with me. I know personally a lot of the guys felt the same way, too. Felt like last year was not a representative of who we are as a football team. It’s part of my job to make sure we get on the right track before I head up out of here.
Servais: I know Josh talked about it a lot, that season last year left a bad taste in our mouths. Especially being seniors, we’re the leaders of the team, we put a lot of the weight of that season on our shoulders. That’s certainly not the way we wanted to leave our legacy, the 2020 legacy. Yeah, we definitely wanted to come back and right some wrongs.
Babers; I think the biggest thing is that we had a bad season, and we’ve had a really, really good season. I don’t think we’re as bad as we were in the bad season, and maybe we’re not as good as we were in the good one. But the thing that I really want is consistency. I want to be consistently good, not occasionally great. If we can find that consistency, I think we can find the support and the foundation that we need not only for the university but also for the community. It’s really important to me that they have a football team they can be proud of. That’s very, very important.
Finally, after the last 16 months, it has become more apparent than ever that Dino Babers’ role as one of the few power five coaches of color is something that should be discussed a bit more, and Coach was asked about it during his session. Here was his response.
Every day I want to be known as a football coach. Watch how I say this. I want to be known as a football coach, a good football coach, and I appreciate you saying that. There’s no doubt when I look in the mirror, I wake up in the morning, I see an African American staring back at me. The responsibility is to make sure that the things that I do in this position allows other people to have an opportunity to enjoy and embrace the same profession. It gets difficult sometimes. Sometimes it’s just like, Wow, I really would like to do that but I can’t do that. But you got to understand that not only are you doing it for your family and your university and your community, but you’re also doing it for others. I am not perfect. I’m not always right. I try to be good as much as I can (laughter), and not bad. But there’s no doubt that you make sure you cross Ts and dot Is because you want those opportunities to happen to other people like me, to have the same opportunities that I had.