SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Much like teaching a child to ride a bike, Dino Babers is having to let go and see if his child (the 2021 SU football team) will pedal, or crash and burn.
That experience of not knowing is how Babers described heading into the 2021 season, his sixth on ‘The Hill.’
It is such an uneasy feeling that Dino is tossing and turning at night.
“I don’t sleep at all. I don’t sleep week one, nine, 12, 13, I don’t sleep,” Babers told the media during his weekly press conference Monday.
Such is the life of a head coach. And such is the life of a head coach who is presumably on the “hot seat.” Babers is 24-36 at the helm of the Orange. A record that hits especially hard after a ten-win season just three years ago.
The biggest reason for the down is a two-fold answer: first, the offensive line has struggled. After injuries ravaged the unit, Syracuse ranked 116th in sacks allowed (an actual improvement from the year before) and failed to produce a running game sitting at 123 in the country. And second, quarterback play was a problem.
Tommy DeVito, who got hurt in week four, looked lost at times under center for the Orange. In the smaller sample size, DeVito had career lows in quarterback rating and QBR, a stat created by ESPN to measure a quarterback’s effectiveness.
How will that change this season? Or will it?
According to both Dino and Tommy, yes.
After being forced to sit on the sidelines due to injury, the redshirt-junior believes he has improved the most with the mental side of the game. Dino agrees saying he has seen the improvement when it comes to knowing when danger is around the pocket.
“I think the biggest thing is just his pocket presence; knowing where people are (and) getting rid of the ball so he can protect himself more in situations where things break down,” Babers said.
And while being able to process the game quickly mentally is a must, so is skill. But according to Babers that has seen an uptick too.
“I think he has improved his skills. I think Coach Gilbert has done some really good things with him. We hope the things that we see in practice transfer to the game, and we get a new-and-improved and better version of someone that we think is very good,” Babers added.
Dino is saying all the things he needs to say as the head coach of Tommy and the Orange. He is not going to throw DeVito under the bus. That would be not only an admission to Tommy’s lackluster play, but perhaps even an admission to Babers coaching. It wasn’t too long ago #OrangeNation was singing the praises of Dino who landed the Elite 11 prospect out of New Jersey.
We do not need to look at the words being said in the press conference per say when trying to read the quarterback situation for SU in 2021. We only need to look at the action on the field. And when the Orange takes the field Friday night against Ohio, the question of how Dino feels about once highly touted prospect, because DeVito has competition this year.
Babers has illuded to two or more QBs playing against the Bobcats. Mississippi State transfer Garrett Schrader has apparently done enough in camp to earn some in-game action. And when speaking with Brian Higgins for “The Two-Minute Drill” on Cuse.com, DeVito expressed that he knows others will get their shot under center.
“Whatever helps the offense move the ball. It can be anybody, it could be JaCobian (Morgan) at some point. You just have to operate the offense no matter who is in,” DeVito said.
Despite being a one-point underdog heading into week one, Babers told the media that Ohio will approach this game like a bowl game. They aren’t a power-five school after all; Syracuse is.
But with so much on the line for DeVito, with starting position up for grabs, and Dino’s job security, Syracuse needs to have that same mindset. Because if 2021 is anything like 2020, changes could be made heading into 2022.