Dino Babers has worked magic with wide receivers at every stop in his career. As Baylor’s receivers coach, Babers coaxed monster numbers out of Josh Gordon, Terrance Williams, and Kendall Wright; at Bowling Green, it was Roger Lewis and Gehrig Dieter; with Syracuse, he’s already been the fuse that caused Amba Etta-Tawo to explode, and his system did wonders for Erv Philips, as well. The 55-year-old coach loves the position so much that he calls his team’s wide receivers his “babies.”
Babers’ affinity for wideouts is adorable, and it produces electrifying highlights, infuses excitement into programs, and — oh, yeah — helps his teams win games. At the same time, though, perhaps Babers could devote a little more focus and affection to the trenches, which can become an afterthought with all the talk about wide receivers.
That could change in the near future. Babers has locked down commitments from three players in the Class of 2018, and two of them are expected play on the offensive line, including the most recent: four-star center Tyrone Sampson pledged allegiance to the Orange Tuesday. Yes, you read that correctly — Syracuse football successfully chased down a four-star recruit and finished the deal (verbally, at least). SU had been pursuing the 6-foot-3, 329-pound Sampson for a full year, and it paid off.
Sampson joined three-star recruits Atrilleon Williams and Gabe Horan in Babers’ Class of 2018. Williams is listed as an athlete, and is expected to play in the backfield and/or the secondary with the Orange. Horan, meanwhile, is primarily listed as an offensive tackle, but may work as a tight end, as well.
Even if Horan spends most of his time at tight end, the fact that the coaching staff placed an apparent emphasis on his recruitment speaks volumes, especially when coupled with Sampson’s commitment.
This could be nothing more than a coincidence. Maybe Sampson and Horan end up as the only two offensive linemen in a class that should include at least 20 players. That may sound like an exaggeration, but two (literally!) of Syracuse’s 23 2017 commits man the front five, and neither one occupies the interior.
Perhaps we’re reading too much into the timing of these verbal commitments — but the simple fact that a four-star behemoth is planning to come to SU is worth something. The Orange’s offensive line in 2016 was a revolving door plagued by inexperience and inconsistency; it may take a few years, but the team’s trenches should improve as Babers’ tenure rolls along.