Syracuse Preview 2016: Dino Baber takes his offense to the Orange.
The heavy lifting is about to begin for Dino Babers at Syracuse.
Based on his body of work, two seasons at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, Babers appears to be a smart hire for a struggling Orange program that’s finished above the .500 mark just three times since 2002. By his second year with the Panthers and the Falcons, both programs won league titles and at least 10 games, the basis for improving optimism in Upstate New York.
Syracuse believes it got it’s man to succeed Scott Shafer. Still, turning things around will be a process that takes time, patience and a couple more recruiting classes until results are fully realized.
Babers’ identity is rooted in his fast-paced, high-scoring machines. He’s an Art Briles disciple, having served as a Baylor assistant for four seasons prior to being hired by Eastern Illinois. So, the Orange plans to spread the field with as much speed as possible, challenging defenses with its tempo and balance.
The player most likely to benefit from the new attack is sophomore QB Eric Dungey, who played well during the spring. The Oregon native also shined as a rookie in 2015, but his debut was cut short by a concussion. Now, fingers are crossed that he can stay healthy, evolve as the centerpiece of the offense and capitalize on emerging skill position players, such as WR Steve Ishmael and backs Devontae Strickland and Jordan Fredericks. If Dungey blooms, Syracuse could be a nuisance in the second half of the season.
The first defense under the leadership of the new regime will be a mixed bag. Sure, there’s potential up the middle, with LB Zaire Franklin and tackles Steven Clark, Chris Slayton and Kayton Samuels clogging up running lanes. But the pass defense is a looming problem unless corners Cordell Hudson and Corey Winfield can become stoppers. Plus, the DBs will need more help from the pass rush since Ron Thompson grew fed up with the program and left at the end of his junior year.
The Orange has potential. Not the same potential as Jim Boeheim’s basketball team, but a higher ceiling nonetheless. And the football program believes it now has a leader who will not only be an agent of change, but also the orchestrator of a more entertaining product.
AD Mark Coyle, who has since left for the same gig at Minnesota, vetted well when he signed Babers. It’s now up to the holdovers to adopt the new philosophies and the fans to be patient for at least one more year.