It’s not unfamiliar territory for Babers. From 1995-2000, he was an offensive assistant coaching all of wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks at one point. He also had a brief stint as offensive coordinator as well.
If a thought running through your head is “really? Offense?”, you’re not in the minority. In 2023, Syracuse was 11th out of 14 ACC teams in points per game, averaging 23.5. If you take away the non-conference slate and the Wake Forest game that Babers did not coach, that number drops to 13.4. The Orange scored 94 total points in the seven conference games he was on the sidelines for. Sure, Jason Beck was the offensive coordinator and there were several key pieces injured, but much of that blame still falls on Babers.
When you think about the position groups/players that developed best with Babers at the helm, offense doesn’t come to mind a whole lot. With the exception of Matthew Bergeron and Sean Tucker, most of the names that come to mind are either defensive backs or linebackers. Andre Cisco, Trill Williams, and Ifeatu Melifonwu all went in the same draft class. Garrett Williams turned into a stud as well. As for linebackers, Mikel Jones and Marlowe Wax certainly don’t hold the same pedigree as those defensive backs, but they’re still really good players. You’d think a defense job would suit Babers well with all that talent.
Now to where Babers is going. Arizona is no ragtag program. The Wildcats are coming off a 10-3 season that culminated with an Alamo Bowl victory against Oklahoma in their final season in the PAC-12. That’s a bummer because the Big 12 this year was not even close competitively to the PAC-12. And that will remain the case, perhaps even more so than before, in 2024 with Texas and Oklahoma both out the door. Babers has big shoes to fill taking over the offense though. Arizona was fourth in the conference in both points per game and yardage. The Wildcats were just one peg down from the conference’s best in Oregon and Washington. Not saying it can’t be done, but that’s a tough threshold to live up to.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with Arizona’s decision, you can’t help but root for the guy. Say what you want about his coaching, he came across as a very good guy, and both players and assistant coaches share that sentiment. It was always time for Syracuse to move on, he was always going to get a new job elsewhere. At minimum, it’s an interesting fit.