Syracuse coach Dino Babers sounds off on upcoming football season

Dino Babers
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers looks on. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers sat down with reporters to discuss the upcoming football season, keeping Eric Dungey healthy, and finishing strong in November during ACC Kickoff. Here are some of the highlights from the interview.

Q: Clemson is going to be the best team in the Atlantic Division right now. Has anyone closed the gap on them?

A: Their defensive line is crazy good right now. They’re crazy deep. That’s… that’s not fair. It’s going to take a special night, it’s going to take a special situation to be able to play with those guys. They’re probably the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country.

Q: How can quarterback Eric Dungey finish a season healthy?

A: Next time you see him, just run up to him and whisper ‘Russell Wilson’ in his ear. I just wish he’d take a page out of Russell’s book. He does a fantastic job with the Seattle Seahawks of, sometimes he’s going to be a runner and he’s going to stay in the middle of the field. And sometimes he’s going to get what he needs to get and then step out of bounds. And he’s found a way to stay healthy throughout his career. And to use his legs as an advantage as opposed to a disadvantage. And I don’t think Eric uses his legs as a disadvantage. But he’s just so courageous. I just want him to be a little bit, he’s so unselfish, I want him to be a little more selfish so he can play in November and see what kind of football team we can be.

» Related: Eric Dungey says Syracuse football is ‘on the cusp’ of a great season

Q: How does he walk the line of being aggressive yet staying healthy?

A: It’s a tough deal. It really is. But I think if anyone can handle that, it’s him. Every time we ask more out of him, he gives us what we ask for. So we’re still asking.

Q: Is he the most important player on the team?

A: I don’t like to stay stuff like that. We’re not like a basketball team. We got 22 guys out there. Really good football teams play between 36-38 for a meaningful football game. We’re probably as deep at that position as we’ve ever been . There are some talented young quarterbacks behind him. Although we don’t wish an injury upon anyone, we have a chance of sustaining an injury than ever before. We need all the good guys we got. Eric is definitely one of them. But I don’t think one team is based on a player.

Q: Sometimes it’s out of your control, but how does the team finish strong into November this year?

A: It is in my control to finish strong. It’s not out of my control. We’ve got to find a way to make it happen. We can’t just hope it’s going to happen. We’re doing some different things, no I’m not going to tell you the different things, but we’re doing some different things to see if we can finish strong in November. For us to have success at Syracuse, we have to find a way to finish in November. And if we keep doing the same old things and we keep getting the same results, that’s insanity, right? Lord knows I don’t think I’m insane. We’re going to do some different things and see if it’s going to work out.

Q: What do you think of the defense this season?

A: I expect us to be better. I really do. We’re deeper in the defensive line. Our secondary is very, very talented. They’re young, but they’re talented. Inexperienced at the linebacker position, but we may have more talented than the guys that left. So we’ve got potential with the linebackers. We’re young and talented in the secondary. I just think we’re finally the real deal on the defensive line. I think we’re going to be able to get after people, penetrate, and push some people around.

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Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.