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There are pros and cons to every bye week, Syracuse coach Dino Babers said at his weekly virtual press conference. While the break was much-needed for his team that’s dealing with a myriad of injuries at key spots, Babers also said he’s worried Duke — coming off a 38-31 loss to Virginia Tech — might enter the Carrier Dome next Saturday more ready to play.
“They have a huge advantage because they played a game last week, and that normally means they’re going to have an opportunity to start a little bit faster than us,” Babers said. “We’re going to have an advantage that we’re going to have some guys healthy, supposedly. And hopefully, we can catch up to game speed fast enough that we don’t get too far behind and we can make a game of it.”
In this 2020 season, with an almost all-conference schedule, there are no “gimmes,” Babers added. That means the starters get a heavy snap count, and the reserves might hardly touch the field. The week off gave the starters a needed respite and the reserves some more time to learn the playbook and earn playing time — “to grow the underbelly,” Babers said.
As Syracuse (1-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) prepares for its upcoming contest against the Blue Devils (0-4, 0-4), Babers didn’t provide much insight into who will be available for the Orange. He’s weary of any advantage personnel disclosure can come from such information, and expectedly kept most updates to himself.
Orange players still banged up
The most notable injury Syracuse is dealing with is preseason All-American safety Andre Cisco, who collided with wide receiver Ed Hendrix during warmups before the Georgia Tech game.
Babers called Cisco’s injury a “lower body extremity injury,” and went on to note he hadn’t seen anything like that incident happen in his playing or coaching career He didn’t say whether Cisco will be available for Saturday’s contest, or if there’s a timetable for his return.
“But I’ll tell you what,” Babers said, “I’ve seen him every day, and he’s been smiling and he’s been excited. So, we’ll see.”
Also in the secondary, safety Eric Coley was out of the lineup against Georgia Tech. The Manlius native has an “owie,” Babers said.
Rob Hanna stepped up in Coley and Cisco’s absence versus the Yellow Jackets, recording a team-high nine tackles and an interception as a true freshman. Freshman Ja’Had Carter (one interception, eight tackles) also had a strong performance, but Babers said he’s eager for more experience to return to the defense.
“We got some young pups out there,” Babers said. “We are really encouraged and we’re really looking forward to getting Eric’s experience back to put one of those guys in our rotation or at least be able to spell them for a couple plays so they’re not out there all the time.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Babers mentioned before the season began that reinforcements were coming on the offensive line around October. Redshirt junior Dakota Davis has yet to suit up for the Orange in 2020, though there’s still no timetable for Davis’s and other reserve linemen to get cleared.
“We’ve got open arms waiting for those guys to come back,” Babers said. “And we need them. The day that there is a change, we’ll be excited. And we still got to remember with those guys, even when they’re healthy enough to come back, they’ve still got to get in shape. They’re not going to be in the type of game shape where they can come back and play every snap.”
As of Monday afternoon, SU hasn’t released a Week 4 depth chart.
In Tommy DeVito’s 13-for-24, two-touchdown and one-pick performance against Georgia Tech, backup Rex Culpepper didn’t play a snap. Heading into the game, Babers had noted that DeVito was Syracuse’s starter but Culpepper has packages SU likes to use.
When asked about Syracuse’s quarterback situation on Monday, Babers compared it to a bullpen in baseball: If one passer doesn’t have it, he may have to make the call for a relief appearance.
Babers, who grew up in San Diego, noted that the San Diego Padres used nine pitchers in their Game 3 clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We’re going to be like the Padres,” Babers said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to win the football game. If we need to play one and our starter can sit out there and throw nine innings and we can win, God bless him. And if we need to go to a reliever, whether it’s long or short, we will. If we have to go to a closer, we’ll go to a closer, too.”
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