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Babers Brings Major Changes to Syracuse

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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In his four seasons as a collegiate head coach, Dino Babers has never failed to finish first in his division or conference.

As the ACC football universe continues to try to get a feel for new Syracuse head coach Dino Babers, there is one thing that all media have come to learn about the new head man for the Orange: He certainly is not afraid of a challenge.

Taking over a program that had won a total of just seven games in the previous two seasons, it was already assumed that Babers was not one to shy away from a difficult task such as taking over a Power Five program.

But that task becomes even more difficult when you consider the fact that Babers inherits a program that competes in the ACC Atlantic Division alongside the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Clemson. Building a team that has been down in the dumps in hard; building that same team while competing against tough competition becomes infinitely more difficult.

“I really think if you're going to be the best, you have to play the best,” Babers commented during his first appearance at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte. “I think the Atlantic side of our conference is outstanding. We have an opportunity to play Florida State, Clemson, Louisville. That's not talking about the other teams in the conference. That's a heavy row to hoe right there.”

Babers’ strategic approach in helping get the Orange to the point where they can consistently contend with the current top programs in the league is to implement a system which is predicated upon tempo and speed, a far cry from the system under Scott Shafer.

Having spent two years apiece at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, Babers’ offenses have always been noted for their abilities to wear down opposing defensive players while putting extreme pressure on opposing defensive coordinators.

For Syracuse, the hope is that the introduction of Babers’ offensive system will lead to significant improvements for a unit which has finished each of the last two seasons ranked 13th in the conference in total offense.

In order for that to happen, however, the players must go through the unfortunate task of making the adjustment to the tempo of his scheme.

“When you put this style of football in, this is the third time that I've seen a first day of spring ball practice underneath this system, and it always ends the exact same way: with a bunch of big guys over trash cans not saying much shaking their heads,” Babers remarked about installing his system. “When they get done with that, so that I can speak to them, I look them dead in the eye, I tell them, ‘That's the slowest practice we're ever going to have and we'll never be that slow again’. They're looking at me with doubt until you have the second practice, then the fifth, then the tenth, then the last practice.”

The good news for the Orange as they continue to work on adjusting to this new brand of offense is that they have a relatively experienced group of players with which to work. Syracuse returns 17 starters from last season, tied for the most in the conference.

And while many experts look at Syracuse’s overall personnel and come to the conclusion that the Orange still have a long way to go before they can be considered serious contenders, Babers is relying upon past experience to call out the greatness within his players.

To boil it down, the mindset is that the coach’s job is to talk to his players as he wants them to be instead of how most people currently perceive them, and to prepare as if your team is going to be a contender, even if no else views them in that matter.

“My first head coaching job was at Eastern Illinois University. The coach there, Bob Spoo, a Hall of Fame coach at that level, 25 years at one university,” Babers recalled. “When I went into that program, they had won three games the previous two years. I felt there was a good football team there; they were just a little bit lost. I can still remember him catching me after a 5:30 a.m. workout. Him and I were working out at the same health club. The administration thought the team was really bad. All the reporters and media thought the team was really bad, that it was going to take five years to rebuild that team. He looked at me dead in the eye with the best coaching voice in college football and said, ‘Dino, you have a good team.’ Then he walked away. My spinal cord was still shaking. He still had that effect on me. I went back to the coaches and said, ‘We got a good football team, we just got to coach them like they're going to be good.’ We took that football team and went from worst to first, won a conference championship. I don't like to put a ceiling or walls around us. I have no idea how we're going to do this year. I can tell you this, we're going to prepare like we're going to win every single football game and I expect the effort on the football field to be exactly that way.”

There is no question that Babers has his work cut out for him in order to get Syracuse where he wants it to be.

There is also no question, though, that Babers knows how to win.

In his four seasons as a collegiate head coach, Babers has never failed to finish first in his division or conference. Consequently, he has never had a season in which his team failed to reach postseason competition.

The process might take a little bit longer this time around, but Babers has the formula to make Syracuse a player in the Atlantic Division. At this point, it simply seems to be a matter of how much time it will take to get his team where many people are expecting it will end up.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.