Recruiting is the life blood of any major college football program. That includes Syracuse, who just hired a new head coach in Dino Babers. Babers comes by way of Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois. So how does Babers and his new staff make the transition from recruiting at the FCS level and in the MAC to the ACC? Babers believes his background as an assistant helps.
“When your background is power five, like mine’s been, and when you really look at where I’ve been and how long I’ve been there, I’ve actually just had a short stint, so to speak, in non-power five, 1AA schools,” he said. “My entire career has been with the big guys, so to speak. I think our recruiting will not suffer at all. We’re just looking out to tell a coach what to look for.
"We’ll get with the recruiting coordinator to put him on the right guy and I think we’ll be fine.”
Babers recruiting philosophy starts with relationships. He believes that is the key to any successful recruiter and should help him be successul in that arena at Syracuse.
“I think it always starts with family,” Babers said. “I think it always starts with la familia ohana. It’s not the bricks and the mortars, it’s the people inside those buildings that are going to bring kids. Kids go and play for people that they enjoy being around. We’re going to have a family atmosphere here. We’re going to be close.
"We’re going to be tight and we’re going to go into battles like that. That’s going to help us in the fourth quarter.”
In order to develop those relationships, it is imperative to have a plan. That starts with identifying key recruiting areas that will be the focus of how the roster is built. Babers already has that in place.
“I think you always start at home,” Babers said. “In the home state. I think, obviously, New Jersey plays a major role. When you spiral graph out, you’re going to go two different directions. Canada’s a major player. We need to make sure we have some Canadians on our team. We’re going to go straight to Philly, go through Pittsburgh, get into Ohio, Detroit, Chicago, stop there.
"Going south, we will go Maryland, (Washington) D.C., Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach with all of those great athletes and then we’ll stop, we’ll get on a plane and drop into Florida.”
Most of those areas make sense and are consistent with previous staff pipelines. The specific mention of Canada, however, is extraordinarily interesting. There has been an influx in recent years of Canadian talent into U.S. high schools. Getting involved with some of those talented players can help add impact players to Syracuse's roster.
“I think it’s very important,” Babers said. “My first college roommate I ever had was a 6-foot-7 blonde Canadian, Jim Mills. He’s, ‘hey, eh!’ He started as a tight end at the University of Hawaii and ended up as a tackle. He was a rookie of the year for the Baltimore Colts. I think there’s a lot of good Canadian football players up there.
"Obviously when you’re spiral graphing out, the first country you hit when you go above us is Canada. I think they’ll be part of our recruiting. A major part? No. But it’s something that we need to peak over the fence and see if there’s a player over there to the north that can help us win.”
During his introductory press conference, Babers indicated he would have coaches in place to start recruiting immediately. While his new staff is on the trail, how do they divide their time between recruiting the commits versus new targets?
“I think it’s a balance,” Babers said. “A yin and a yang. An alpha and a beta. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing both things. A, you’re looking at the guys that are committed to us and then b, you’re looking for new talent as well.”
That is not to say all of the players currently committed are guaranteed spots in Syracuse's 2016 class. They have to be the right fit, and that may not be at the same position for which they were originally recruited.
“We are evaluating all of the guys that are committed to us,” Babers said. “We’re trying to decide, hey, we want you, are you really good and someone who can play in this position. Some of the positions may have to change. So I think you make sure you alert those kids that they’re really comfortable with their decision if you think that they may have to switch a position different than the previous staff.”
Babers added the key is to be upfront, honest and open with players they recruit. Specifically stating they will be "black and white" with recruits as opposed to "grey." That honesty should help the staff develop relationships with high school coaches quickly.
With his recruiting philosophy rapidly being implemented in order to close the 2016 class strong, the recruiting support staff's future comes to mind. Specifically, director of recruiting Eric White and recruiting assistant Cole Dial. Babers says that situation is still being evaluated and is all about the right fit.
“All of that stuff is a fit,” Babers said. “You’ve got to let it simmer a little bit like a good soup. You don’t want to just go in there and start eating it because it hasn’t simmered yet. So we’ve got to make sure this thing’s a fit. It’s not just a matter of going out and getting mercenaries to serve in your army so to speak.
"We want to make sure this guy can fit with this guy and this guy’s got this area and that everything’s going to be copacetic when we get together. I think it’s more about the fit more so than trying to grab people and doing it in a really fast manner.”