The head coach sounded excited, but tried to keep expectations in check.
Syracuse football opened its 2016 training camp on Saturday, officially kicking off a season packed with excitement and anticipation. The spotlight is on first-year head coach Dino Babers, who is expected to implement a fast-paced, high-flying, scoreboard-breaking offensive scheme in Central New York, and has begun his recruiting process with several high-profile commitments. The Orange’s new head honcho addressed the media after his team’s first day of practice.
Babers said he was most impressed by how hard the players worked in their first session of the season. “I thought the effort was really good,” Babers said. “The energy was fantastic.”
That’s classic coach speak. Babers didn’t want to single out any specific players or position groups, so he offered blanket praise for the entire roster. He’s clearly a veteran program leader.
A reporter did ask Babers about one particular player, though. Eric Dungey is projected to start under center for SU, and Babers, whose offensive system — while complex — should fit the sophomore’s skillset quite well, said his signal-caller has room for improvement.
“The biggest thing is his physical growth, and having a better understand of what’s going on in the offense,” Babers said. “I think there’s still a lot of techniques and fundamentals he needs to work on, and he will. There’s no doubt he got better, but we’ve still got a long way we have to go.”
A reporter pressed Babers to reveal what specific techniques Dungey needs to refine, but the head coach wouldn’t go into greater detail.
Babers said the team’s freshmen and graduate transfers didn’t get a lot of reps on Saturday because they’re still learning schemes. “The rest of the team is so far ahead that we can’t put them in because that slows everything down,” Babers said. “And we’re not going to slow down.”
Babers clearly believes that if you want to play fast in games, you have to play fast in practice. This philosophy could lead to some conditioning issues early in the campaign, but the head coach said it wasn’t a problem on day one.
Babers said neither side stood out in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage. The offense made some plays, but also missed a few opportunities, while the defense turned a few turnovers into touchdowns.
“Right now, we don’t have any pads on, so it’s all about trying to do the little things,” Babers said. “If we can get them to do the little things right, then we’re going to have a chance for big things.”