Fifteen seniors played their final game at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
Members of the senior class include: Clay Austin, Sean Avant, Parris Bennett, Devin M. Butler, Zaire Franklin, Alex Grossman, Nathan Hines, Steve Ishmael, Zach Mahoney, Jordan Martin, Jamar McGloster, Cole Murphy, Ervin Philips, Jonathan Thomas and Austin Valdez.
After Syracuse coach Dino Babers addressed the team in the locker room, he asked the seniors to take one last lap around the Carrier Dome to relive their past few years of memories. It is a new tradition that Babers has started.
“In the game of football, it’s not like any other game,” Babers said. “If you’re a baseball player, you can play softball, and everybody knows you’re a good baseball player. Or, if you’re a basketball player, you join a rec [league] team, and everybody can see you can shoot a three and throw down a dunk. But, when a football player retires from college, there’s nowhere to go. Twenty-two guys aren’t out playing football with pads on, messing up their company’s insurance because they got hurt, and there are no trainers taking care of them. So it’s a special deal, and it’s an emotional deal. I feel bad for them individually, but as a family I feel good for them because I know they are the foundation of what we’re going to get started.”
Baber’s adamantly feels that this year’s senior class has set the tone for years to come, and as we turn the page to the third chapter of the Dino era, that is how they will be remembered.
“I don’t feel like this is the end of what we’re going to do. I feel like this is the beginning,” Babers remarked. “I really believe that the 2018 season is going to be something we’ll talk about here for a long time. I think the seniors in the 2017 class are the cornerstone. They’re going to be the foundation that gets this thing started. When we have success next year and the years after that, I want everyone to think back to Zaire [Franklin], Parris [Bennett], Moo [Jamar McGloster], Erv [Philips], and Ish [Steve Ishmael], and any other seniors I failed to mention. They are the guys who got us started.”
The guys who will be back in key position in 2018 include: Eric Dungey (Sr.) at quarterback; Dontae Strickland (Sr.) and Moe Neal (Jr.) at running back; Sean Riley (Jr.) and Devin Butler (Jr.) at wide receiver; defensive end Alton Robinson (Jr.) and Scoop Bradshaw (Jr.) Rodney Williams (Sr.) and Evan Foster (Jr.) in the secondary.
Babers is optimistic of the future.
“I think that when you look at what we’re doing, and what’s going to happen next year, you’re going to see drastic improvement,” he said. “And what you’re going to see is the growth and maturity of the young men. You thought they were big this year? Wait until you see them next year. You thought the freshman class was good last year? Wait until you see them this year. As the depth grows, and their bodies change, the team will change, and the performance will change. I think that’s when everybody will appreciate it.”
Time will tell.