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Syracuse football: Dino Babers’s Virginia Tech Week Updates

Of which there were few.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange football returns this week as SU travels to Lane Stadium to face Virginia Tech. That means we’re back to hearing from Dino Babers every Monday. Here’s the latest:

Injury Report

We all hoped that Syracuse would heal up a bit during their bye week, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. OL Kalan Ellis and WR Trebor Pena have both been ruled out for this week, per Babers. Ellis has missed every game this season except for Clemson, while Pena only briefly appeared against Army. Both still have their redshirt available, and at this point, it would make sense to hold them both out one more game beyond this if it means preserving an extra year of eligibility.

WR Isaiah Jones is “slowly getting better” but it doesn’t sound like he’s in the best position to make an offensive impact this week. Meanwhile, OL Joe More remains part of the twos on the depth chart - he’s played just 29 snaps in three games.

Unleashing Allen

LeQuint Allen spoke about having a “dog mentality” back when he first committed to SU. Even after all the challenges he’s faced over the last year, Allen has kept that mindset and emerged as a serious threat in the Orange backfield. He’s picked up at least 100 total yards in four of seven games and in addition to being the bell-cow back, also leads the Orange with 23 receptions.

“LeQuint is a versatile player,” Babers said. “He’s a first down, second down, third down running back in the National Football League. He can catch, he can block, and he can run.”

Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

However, it seems like we’ve only seen a fraction of that versatility. Allen has played 361 snaps so far, and he’s been lined up in the backfield for 341 of them. To fully take advantage of his pass-catching ability, we could see LeQuint go outside more often in four wide or similar heavy-set packages. He may have the most consistent (healthy) pair of hands on the offense right now, so if Jason Beck has some creative play calls involving Allen, I’d dig them out asap.

Avoiding Another Collapse

It’s easy to make comparisons between teams just a year apart, and of those comparisons, one that’s been pointed out is the similar losing streaks of the ‘22 and ‘23 ‘Cuse squads. And while there is some just concern that another banged up Orange team could struggle down the stretch again, Babers instead focused on the positives so far:

“We could have come out of nonconference at 3-1, but we came out at 4-0,” Babers said. “You only get so many opportunities to play certain types of teams in certain types of situations, and you don’t want to look back as you didn’t do everything that you can do.”

If you read between the lines, what he’s saying sounds like ‘we won the games we had a legitimate shot at winning.’

Notre Dame was the sole out-of-conference loss last season - and one of the three teams in the previous “gauntlet.” Their absence and SU’s subsequent four game winning streak mean that the Orange only need two ACC wins out of the final five for bowl eligibility. It’s certainly not the worst scenario they could be in right now, and Babers is trying to keep that perspective.

“We need to redefine the way to be 1-0. All we’re trying to do is win one game this week, and we’ll do everything we can.”