The Daily Orange is a nonprofit newsroom that receives no funding from Syracuse University. Consider donating today to support our mission.
With Syracuse one game away from the end of its 2020 schedule and one loss away from its first 10-loss season since 2007, head coach Dino Babers admitted Monday that, while he’s focused on Saturday’s game against No. 2 Notre Dame, he’s looking to shift to 2021.
This season was an “evaluation of personnel,” including those involved with SU’s offense, defense and special teams, Babers said during a virtual press conference. The team needs to regroup and refocus for the remainder of the year and the beginning of 2021, he said.
“We obviously need to come out with a much more condensed, concentrated package of what we want to do and how we want to do it,” Babers said.
The inexperienced Orange have been decimated by injuries and opt-outs. From starting running backs Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard to star defensive backs Andre Cisco and Trill Williams, the majority of the starters are freshman or sophomores.
Babers has pointed to Syracuse’s inexperience all year, even prior to the first game. Ahead of SU’s final game of the 2020 season against Notre Dame, Babers believes this season’s full, 10-game ACC schedule will only benefit his younger players.
“We’re going through this for a reason,” Babers said. “My thing is, they can’t stay the same. We want to continue to stretch them, make them grow faster than they want to, so that they can be better sooner than they expect to.”
The progress of the younger players has been evident on defense, as the opt-outs of Williams and Cisco forced freshmen Rob Hanna, Ja’Had Carter and Aman Greenwood into starting roles. Babers has constantly pointed out that the players make up what they lack in strength and experience with what they possess in raw talent.
Babers is optimistic about SU’s linebackers, given the performance of sophomores Mikel Jones and Geoff Cantin-Arku and freshmen Marlowe Wax and Stefon Thompson. Jones hauled in his fourth interception against NC State and tied for fourth best in all of the FBS. Wax also sacked Wolfpack quarterback Bailey Hockman twice.
“A lot of those guys look like how NFL linebackers are supposed to look,” Babers said. “We have an opportunity to be really good in the middle of our defense for a long time if they can flip the switch and get going.”
Babers has been impressed with the defense’s mental improvement, as they’ve grasped more of the 3-3-5 defense as the season has progressed. He said their “execution” is better than it was two months ago, particularly with sacks and tackles-for-loss. The Orange have 11 sacks in the last two weeks compared to 13 in the first eight.
The Syracuse head coach is looking for similar improvements in SU’s final game. Facing perhaps its staunchest opponent in No. 2 Notre Dame — a team that defeated Clemson a month ago — he understands the odds are stacked against SU.
The Irish are undefeated and allow just over 85.3 rush yards per game, third among FBS teams who have played at least six games. Outside linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has 8.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in eight games. Only two teams all year have topped 100 rushing yards against the Fighting Irish.
“If you’re on the field, you’re going to get better, as long as you stay on the field. I’m looking for another opportunity to be on the field in 2020 so that it can pay off in 2021,” Babers said.
The post Dino Babers looks ahead to 2021 team before final game against Norte Dame appeared first on The Daily Orange.