Dino Babers is a very good football coach. He’s not a magician, which is what he would need to be to get the talent on this roster to win consistently. And the weakness of the roster goes back a long way.
When he replaced Greg Robinson, Doug Marrone was able to develop talent and hide weaknesses with scheme to build Syracuse into a decent Big East team, which actually meant a decent team in what peaked as the sixth-best conference in the country. Marrone was not a great recruiter, but the improvement in the team’s record helped nudge the recruiting up accordingly.
Then, Marrone left as SU moved to the ACC, arguably the strongest college football conference.
Shafer recruited at a similar level, but was not nearly the same quality in-game head coach. He managed to get his first team to a bowl at 6-6 with a -128 point differential against Power 5 opponents in his first season, then collapsed. His recruiting tanked any momentum, as he often settled for projects that would commit early. (Some Shafer verbal commits Babers wouldn’t take went to FCS schools like Rhode Island and Towson.)
So, when SU faces high caliber competition, this team cannot hang. They can make some plays, but not enough. The Orange skill position players are smaller and slower. Drake Davis, who you may remember running away from the entire SU roster for an 87-yard TD on the first play of the third quarter for LSU, is 6’3” and 217 pounds. Nyheim Hines, who ran for 115 yards and a touchdown for N.C. State, won All-American honors last year in track. Syracuse has exactly zero players like them.
No one on SU’s roster is a definite NFL draft pick. The only guy with a chance at first team All-ACC is Sterling Hofrichter, the punter. A couple guys might make third team. Syracuse is still rolling out defensive ends who top out at 250 pounds, two starting linebackers under 220, and a starting wide receiver listed at 5’8”, 155.
The offense isn’t going to magically kick in. I still completely believe in Babers, but he’s playing with a weak hand.