The Syracuse Orange are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2018, and they’re now home for over a month. Coach Babers kicked-off the extended home stand with his weekly press conference. Here’s what he had to say about the first of four straight visiting opponents: the Purdue Boilermakers.
Head-to-Head (Coaching) History
Babers and Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm have faced each other before - back when both were at their previous schools. Babers was coaching at Bowling Green while Brohm led the Western Kentucky football program. Dino’s Falcons split the 2014-2015 matchups with Jeff’s Hilltoppers before the former was hired by SU.
“He’s a fabulous coach,” Babers said. “He’s done some amazing things at Purdue. They have an outstanding defense... and as always, a quarterback that is just through the roof.”
That first quote wasn’t the only complement Babers dished out for Purdue’s sixth-year QB Aidan O’Connell.
“This guy, he just doesn’t make mistakes,” Babers said. “It’s like you’re playing a coach that can actually throw the football.”
“The last time I saw someone accurate like that, he got drafted by the Patriots.”
Now before anyone jumps the gun: no, he isn’t talking about Tom Brady. At least probably not. There’s a good chance that Dino was referring to Jimmy Garoppolo, who he coached at Eastern Illinois. You can look at a comparison of the two below, specifically their stance and hand placement.
Babers was quick to also give his own QB some credit. Garrett Shrader has his fair share of big moments already this season, and he’s doing it by targeting virtually everyone in the rotation. Shrader has thrown 36 total passes so far, split between 10 different targets. The versatility of this receiving corps. is a strength that Babers has repeatedly pointed out these first few weeks.
Not only that, we’ve seen Shrader uncork the deep ball with precision. Two of his TD passes on Saturday, one to Damien Alford and the other to D’Marcus Adams, had #6 place the ball right over the arms of the defender into his receivers’ hands.
“The timing of those calls (by Coach Anae) were excellent,” Babers said. “The ball handling was really, really good by Shrader. He does a fabulous job of making the football disappear.”
Special Teams are our Specialty
What makes the SU special teams so good this year (aside from bringing in a coordinator this season) are the defensive starters who also spend a lot of time on the unit. We saw their effectiveness against UConn when Mikel Jones was able to recover a muffed punt. It’s all part of a philosophy that Dino adopted from his coach and friend Dick Tomey before he passed: the first play of a drive is really the kick or punt leading up to it.
“When our kickoff team is out there, that’s the first snap of the defense,” Babers said. “When the offensive quarterback comes out there, that’s the second snap.”
Setting the Stage
There are a handful of depth chart adjustments entering the week. Steve Linton slid into a starting DE spot after easing his way back into the fold. Jason Simmons also returns, penciled in as a possibility at safety. One thing that hasn’t changed is the TE situation: Oronde Gadsden and Max Mang still share an “OR” designation, with Dan Villari not listed yet after his first catch. It sounds like he has made remarkable progress but still has some catch-up work to get done before he’d be in serious consideration.
Babers said that he views this as a great opportunity to represent the “more than tough enough” ACC in a battle against a Big Ten squad.
As Steve pointed out, the Orange are slight underdogs in this matchup - but that doesn’t phase Dino in the slightest.
“We’re probably going to be an underdog a lot,” Babers said. “That’s just how we roll.”
The game is a noon kickoff on Saturday and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.