Dino Babers is Daivon Ellison’s biggest fan.
“When someone is willing to be that unselfish, and play the game the right way, you can’t help but root for him,” Babers said of Ellison Monday in his weekly press conference.
SU’s coach also claimed the sophomore safety was Syracuse’s defensive MVP in the team’s 31-17 win over Virginia Tech. He had good reason for that statement; Ellison led Syracuse with eleven tackles in the victory, Syracuse’s first over a ranked team since 2012.
Privately, Babers expressed his pleasure with Ellison’s play as well.
“He was going on about how everyone thinks I’m small, but I hit like a truck,” Ellison said. “It’s pretty nice knowing that.”
Standing at 5 feet 8 inches, Ellison clearly isn’t the tallest player on SU’s roster. In fact, he’s actually one of the three smallest scholarship players on the team. Antwan Cordy and Sean Riley are both also listed at 5’8.
“I know I’m smaller than a lot of guys so that’s why I play a little more physical,” Ellison said. “I play fast, physical and I’m always where I’m supposed to be.”
The Don Bosco high school graduate is coming into his own. Earlier this year, he intercepted Lamar Jackson, he’s third on the team in tackles and now, he’s won the strong safety starting job outright.
“It means a lot but I try and not think about starting too much,” Ellison told reporters Tuesday. “I just try to stay humble about that and keep playing.”
In 2015, Ellison played in eight games and recorded just seven tackles. With injuries to Cordy and Juwan Dowells in 2016, Babers gave Ellison a chance. The sophomore’s first opportunity for legitimate playing time came against South Florida, a game Syracuse lost 45-20.
After that defeat, SU linebacker Zaire Franklin pulled Ellison and safety Kielan Whitner aside to watch extra film after practice. Ellison credited those sessions with SU’s improved defensive performance against Virginia Tech.
“The communication was really good,” he said. “No one was lost out there. Those meetings definitely helped.”
On Saturday against Boston College, Syracuse will try to win two games in a row for the first time since weeks two and three last season. Ellison will play a major role in the game, a role that he has worked hard to achieve.
Posted: Connor Morrissette