Everyone already knows the headlines: Syracuse embarrassingly loses to Liberty, SU drops its first non-Power 5 game since 2017, the Orange are off to their worst start since 2008. The headlines aren’t good and the Syracuse season isn’t looking like it is going to get any better. Sure there have been some injuries to key players, but the Orange didn’t look great even before those. So the question is– what coach is most to blame? Here are the candidates:
The thing with Dino Babers this year is that it doesn’t seem like he knows his team is bad. Up until the press conference after Liberty, he would always come into his weekly meetings with the media and tell everyone how great his team is and how they’ve improved in this area, and this area, and this area. He would make it seem like Syracuse has the talent and ability to beat Clemson, and Alabama, and the other top schools in the nation. Babers would preach Ohana and explain how his team is a family and that everyone is happy, even though their horrid start to the year. This approach just isn’t right. Sometimes you have to take off the public relations vail and just be mad and honest. Babers needs to realize that his team is bad and do something about it.
To be completely honest, I was really impressed with Tony White at the beginning of the year. His 3-3-5 scheme played to Syracuse’s strength, which is the secondary, and it was relatively effective in the first three games. However, now with film of it that opposing teams can study, White’s defense is getting picked apart. In back-to-back weeks, the Syracuse defense allowed over 330 rushing yards. Plus, it allowed two 100+ yard rushers each week. The Orange rank in 6th to last in the FBS in rushing defense, giving up an average of 252 yards on the ground per game.
Sure, White’s defense forces a lot of turnovers. Syracuse currently has more takeaways than any other school in the FBS with 16. But it has been proven that you can’t rely on that. Plus, those forced turnovers are not a product of White’s defense, instead a product of the pure talent levels SU has on that side of the ball.
The major issue I see with Tony White is yes the rushing defense, but more importantly the inability to change. The Orange got gashed on the ground by Duke. Then they had Liberty come to town, which you know is a run-heavy offense, but SU’s defensive gameplan didn’t change. Tony White didn’t alter anything and allowed the Flames to run all over the place. Plus, after a half of seeing Liberty run right up the gut on you, White didn’t make any halftime adjustments because the same thing happened in the second half.
When a new offensive coordinator comes in, you’d expect somethings to change, but this year’s offense is the same thing as last year. And on top of that, simply put, Sterlin Gilbert is just not a good play-caller. For some unfathomable reason, he doesn’t draw up plays for his big tight ends in the red zone, he calls the same running play three times even though it gets shut down all three times, and he calls a 30-yard go route when it’s third-and-one and Sean Tucker has been having success. Gilbert’s play calling makes no sense. Plus, his plays aren’t creative in the slightest. He has about five different ways to hand it off to Tucker and three passing plays, which includes a bubble screen, quick slants, and four verticals where he just prays Taj Harris beats his defender. Like, come on Gilbert, have some type of imagination.
Verdict: Dino Babers
When a team is struggling, it all starts at the top. Dino Babers is going to receive the praise when the Orange are successful and feel the wrath when they are disappointing. This year is more of the latter than the former.
Yes, Tony White has a lot to work on with that defense. His 3-3-5 scheme may not be the best game plan for Syracuse. Yes, Sterlin Gilbert is terrible at calling plays and hasn’t changed anything. But here’s the thing, Babers is in charge of both of those guys and the entire team. If things need changing, Babers should be the one to change them.