He wasn’t standing in front of his new team, but Dino Babers was already coaching.
“Close your eyes. I’m looking, I’m not going to be talking until your eyes are close,” the new Syracuse head coach said. He paused the proceedings until every eye in the room shut, insisting a media member look away from his or her iPad and comply with his instruction. “Visualize this: you’re in the Carrier Dome. The house is filled. The feeling is electric. The noise is deafening. You’ll see a defense is that is relentless. Special teams that are well coached. An offense that will not huddle and a game that is faster than you’ve ever seen on turf.
“Open your eyes,” Babers said. “That’s going to be a reality. That’s going to be Syracuse football.”
That may be the image Babers wants his players and fans to imagine, but it’s not the one they see in front of them. A reporter asked Babers what he saw the locals did not, an appeal perhaps washed away after sitting through nine losing seasons since the program’s last major bowl appearance earned in 1998. “There’s something to revive here,” the reporter said.
“I see fantastic facilites,” Babers said. “I see outstanding academics. if we can provide a fantastic education and can go out and pick the right type of athletes, I don’t understand why it can’t be a marriage.” we have a gift to have your own dome up north and to grab the community at a time like this, let them be a part of a change, something they will never forget.”
Babers will draw on his experience reviving Baylor football under Art Briles, where he coached wide receivers, special teams and served as recruiting coordinator from 2008-11. That faith, perseverance and vision Briles taught will help, but so will his offense. “Art taught a different style of football to me. He told me, ‘Just let it simmer, put it in the crock pot and let it sit Don’t think too much about it and in a year it’ll sink in.’ He was right,” Babers said.
The MAC champion Bowling Green team Briles left behind ranked 13th nationally in yards per play and fifth in scoring. Syracuse ranked 103rd and 77th, respectively. Bowling Green ran 1,073 plays in 13 games, the most in the nation. Syracuse ran 751 in 12 games, third fewest among teams that played at least 12 games.
Babers' Bowling Green team had 725 yards of total offense against UMass. Boston College had 826 yards of total offense in November.
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) December 7, 2015
One can safely assume Babers would not be at Syracuse without the Carrier Dome, a venue he referred to as “a gift” multiple times Monday. The Orange will play seven home games in 2016 and their membership in the ACC Atlantic affords them biannual trips to places like Clemson, Florida State, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Louisville. Seemingly only Boston College will offer weather troubles to his grip-it-and-rip-it attack.
The dome setting will help, but so will good players. Babers pledged to recruit New York, but also mentioned he’ll be a frequent visitor to New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago and Florida. To do that, he’ll need a staff.
When asked who he was bringing from Bowling Green, Babers deadpanned, “All the good ones.” Sources have told FootballScoop he will bring his entire offensive staff — co-offensive coordinators Mike Lynch and Sean Lewis, wide receivers coach Kim McCloud, tight ends coach Tom Freeman, outside receivers coach Andrew Sowder — plus defensive coordinator Brian Ward and special teams coordinator/defensive line coach Tom Kaufman.
The two remaining Bowling Green assistants, surely, felt their years of service well-rewarded by their former head coach and his acid-laced comment.
“I wanted somebody with tremendous honesty and integrity, somebody focused on students and their well-being, somebody innovative and exciting, somebody with a commitment to winning,” Syrause AD Mark Coyle said, breaking away from the trend of athletics directors hiring head coaches with only a lukewarm commitment to winning. “I’m confident that we found that person in Coach Babers.”
Babers said, eyes open, if the Syracuse Nation jumps on board, the Orange could rise to the “top of the ACC.”
“Why not? Tell me why not. The tradition here is unbelievable. I know the number 44 — Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little. I even know the number 39 and Larry Csonka. The fan support here is great, we need to give them what they deserve,” Babers said. “That’s what I came here to do.”