Syracuse football’s fifth-year head coach wrapped up preparation for his season opener with a staff meeting on Thursday morning. It’s possible after seeing just a couple drives of the North Carolina game, that the game plan is shifted.
« Opening games, you really don’t know, » Babers said on his radio show Thursday night. « You’re kind of hoping that they did exactly what they did last year, but they could come out and we’d go, ‘Holy mackerel, we’ve never seen that before,’ and the whole thing’s an adjustment. »
One thing he is confident all the viewers tuning into the ACC Network at home will see: some « old-fashioned smackin' » from his defense.
« I really like the temperament of the young people on defense and I like what they do with their bodies when they want to run into something, » Babers said on his radio show Thursday night.
Babers said fans can anticipate a « more aggressive » looking group under first-year defensive coordinator Tony White. The goal is to instill pressure, and maybe a little bit of fear, into opposing offenses that Babers said didn’t consistently exist under former coordinator Brian Ward.
« I never got the feeling while we were giving up those big plays and having those big wins that we were really getting after the other side of the ball, » Babers said before rattling off a handful of exceptions. »I want those guys to come into the Dome and go, ‘You know what, if we don’t protect our quarterback, we may not leave here without him.’ «
Here are some other things to watch when the Orange opens its season in Chapel Hill, N.C., at noon on Saturday:
A group that ranked among the nation’s worst in 2019 is driven to be better this fall.
Two first-year starters from a year ago are back and healthy in sophomore tackle Matthew Bergeron and redshirt sophomore center Carlos Vettorello. Along with redshirt senior center Airon Servais, they compose a trio of linemen that the staff hopes it can trust to execute assignments and keep up with the offense’s pace.
Returning starter Dakota Davis was injured this spring, hasn’t been pictured or filmed practicing this fall and wasn’t listed on the team’s Week 1 depth chart. Florida transfer Chris Bleich, who is also coming off an injury, announced that his NCAA waiver seeking immediate eligibility was denied on Thursday.
Currently, redshirt junior Darius Tisdale is penciled in as one starter at 342 pounds while 6-foot tight end/defensive tackle Chris Elmore is slated to start on the left side.Senior Patrick Davis is also a candidate to see immediate playing time.
« We’ve been going as a group for quite a few weeks now and I’m really starting to get comfortable with this group, » Servais said on Tuesday. « I think we’ve got some really good chemistry on the field and we’re starting to gel. »
The Orange is slated to start two second-year linebackers on the inside in Mikel Jones and Geoff Cantin-Arku as well as true freshman Stefon Thompson at strong-side ‘backer. Their primary backups? Three more underclassmen in Steve Linton, Lee Kpogba and Marlowe Wax.
« They’re young, they’re talented, they fly around, they hit things that move, » Babers said. « Whether they’re going to line up right and hit the gap, we’ll see. »
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