Q&A: Dino Babers at ACC Media Days

Check out what Dino Babers had to say at the 2016 ACC Kickoff event.

COACH BABERS: First of all, good morning to everybody. Welcome to the ACC. I guess I already heard that already. I'm excited to be here representing not only myself and my football team, but Syracuse University.

Since I've arrived at Syracuse University, I felt that we've been on a daunting journey for correctness and righteousness. I think these two young men behind me represent some of the finer things we've got going on on offense and defense. What we're going to do is take their effort, take their precision and see if we can have that grow throughout our offense, our defense and our special teams.

With their energy and a lot of other young men just like them working out right now back in Syracuse, New York, hopefully we can do some fantastic things this year in the ACC.

That's my opening statement.

Q. Coach, Moe Neal was an early enrollee. Talk about how he's doing, what you expect out of him.

COACH BABERS: I don't like to get into individual comments about certain individuals. What I will do, I'll talk about Kenneth Ruff, Rex Culpepper and Moe Neal. Those were our three early midyear admits. All three of those freshmen have done a fabulous job of learning the right things to do as far as getting to class and getting on time and representing the university in a proper manner.

One thing that I thought the football team at Syracuse did a great job of bringing them into the family, into the la familgia, 'ohana, showing them the ropes, teaching them right from wrong when they didn't know exactly what they should be doing in a certain situation.

We're excited about all three of those freshmen. We think they're all going to help the family.

Q. Can you use your California roots to recruit to an Upstate New York school?

COACH BABERS: My California roots are not really California roots. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. I graduated high school in San Diego, California. I lived everywhere in between. I had an opportunity to play up in British Columbia in Canada. My dad was 20 years military. We used to drive down the road and say that was a good box and stop because we could use that for moving. We moved a lot.

I wouldn't say that my roots are just in California. I think the life that I was raised in was the proper life to be a coach. I'm proud of all the different communities I was a part of. I'm excited to be a part of the Syracuse community, as well.

Q. When you look at the team as a whole through your first spring, the personnel, the talents and abilities of what you're trying to institute offensively and defensively, how have the units responded to what you and your coaching staff have put in?

COACH BABERS: I thought that the young men at Syracuse were extremely hungry. Even though we have a lot of men coming back on offense and defense, they're doing stuff that is totally different. The defense played last year is more aggressive than what we're going to play. The offense is a lot slower than what we're going to play. That's not even including the special teams.

I thought they did a nice job of embracing it. I think Zaire touched on it just recently. They really went after it. They were trying to give us exactly what we were asking for on the football field.

I think the onus is on the football staff to make sure you know exactly what you want, you speak very clearly, and there's no gray in the way you explain things to young men. I believe that all young men want discipline. I think they all want to be consistently good, not occasionally great. If you ask for the right thing, I think they'll give it to you.

Q. You take over Bowling Green coming off a MAC title. Is there a different approach to rejuvenating a program versus just maintaining success?

COACH BABERS: My first head coaching job was at Eastern Illinois University. The coach there, Bob Spoo, a Hall of Fame coach at that level, 25 years at one university. Before that he was the quarterback whisperer at Purdue University when they had all their great quarterbacks, a south Chicago high school coach before that.

When I went into that program, they had won three games the previous two years. I felt there was a good football team there; they were just a little bit lost. I can still remember him catching me after a 5:30 a.m. workout. Him and I were working out at the same health club. The administration thought the team was really bad. All the reporters and media thought the team was really bad, that it was going to take five years to rebuild that team.

He looked at me dead in the eye with the best coaching voice in college football and said, Dino, you have a good team. Then he walked away. My spinal cord was still shaking. He still had that effect on me.

I went back to the coaches and said, We got a good football team, we just got to coach them like they're going to be good.

We took that football team and went from worst to first, won a conference championship. It's only happened three times in the history of the OVC. This is my third opportunity to start on a first year with a football team, I've been blessed.

I don't like to put a ceiling or walls around us. I have no idea how we're going to do this year. I can tell you this, we're going to prepare like we're going to win every single football game and I expect the effort on the football field to be exactly that way.

Q. We have four new coaches in the ACC, you being one of them. We've heard a lot about change of culture. How do you hope to change the culture at Syracuse?

COACH BABERS: You know, I'm one of the four new coaches in the ACC, but the other three of them went to the coastal and I'm the only one in the Atlantic. I think I have a high IQ. I'm not sure, I'm going to have to go back and check (smiling).

I really think if you're going to be the best, you have to play the best. I think the Atlantic side of our conference is outstanding. We have an opportunity to play Florida State, Clemson, Louisville. That's not talking about the other teams in the conference. That's a heavy row to hoe right there.

If you have an opportunity to play for a national championship, you should. If you can find a way to win the championship in the Atlantic, find a way to beat the team in the coastal, you should have an opportunity to play for a national championship.

I think that's what all young men and all coaches want. They want to have a fine experience at a prestigious university, get a quality education, and have an opportunity to play for championships in that order.

Q. Back in Pennsylvania, everybody is excited that Pitt and Penn State have renewed their rivalry. What I get asked is when is the other big rival, Syracuse, coming back on the schedule? Would you like to see the rivalry renewed?

COACH BABERS: I'll tell you what, I had an opportunity to coach at the University of Pittsburgh when Larry Fitzgerald was there under Walt Harris. They used to talk about that rivalry all the time. What a fantastic rivalry that is.

I don't know if you've checked the latest statistics out there, ESPN, all those pre-season magazines. But someone told me that Syracuse University has the eighth toughest schedule in the country, and that for the next two years we will absolutely be in the top 10. When you're playing a schedule like that and you're rebuilding a football team, I'm not quite sure we should add Penn State just yet.

So give us a little time. Let us work it around a little bit and we'll see what we can do about the Nittany Lions.

Q. Your practices in the spring are a little bit of a surprise for guys who maybe aren't used to it. How did the guys respond to the spring practices this year? What did you see at the end of spring ball?

COACH BABERS: That question always makes me smile. You asked a dandy. When you put this style of football in, this is the third time that I've seen a first day of spring ball practice underneath this system, and it always ends the exact same way: with a bunch of big guys over trash cans not saying much shaking their heads.

When they get done with that, so that I can speak to them, I look them dead in the eye, I tell them, That's the slowest practice we're ever going to have and we'll never be that slow again.

They're looking at me with doubt until you have the second practice, then the fifth, then the tenth, then the last practice. When you tell them that, We can't start two-a-days at the tempo that we ended with the 15th practice, you've got to develop and you have to acquire more speed through the summer, so that when two-a-days start, we're on the 30th practice, the 31st practice, when it comes to the speed part of it.

The thing I'm really looking forward to at Syracuse University is that the second year is always faster than the first year. The first year, it's like I'm watching reruns of Gilligan's Island. It's like I know what's going to happen next. It's kind of boring the first year. The second year is really cool. You get to the tempo and speed that you want.

The best thing about this story is I've never had an opportunity to go to a third year. So maybe that's undergraduate, graduate level, doctorate degree. I've never gone to a third year before. I really hope I get an opportunity to go for a third year at Syracuse because that would be new water for me.

I hope I answered your question.

Q. When you look at leadership, to look at John Wildhack, the committee that found him, what can you say about the leadership at the university, their investment in the future and you?

COACH BABERS: First of all, I'm so excited that John Wildhack is with us. His reputation is something you don't have to talk about. People may look at him and go, Wow, that's a different hire. He may have some shortcomings as far as being an athletic director. But I think those shortcomings are in areas where we're extremely strong. I think those areas are in hiring and firing coaches.

I think I have a good relationship with John. We're just starting off, but I think it's kind of solid. I looked him dead in the eye, I said, John, Coach Boeheim is solid, Coach Q does a great job with the women's basketball team, both teams being in the Final Four, lacrosse teams are outstanding, outstanding coaches. We have a very, very outstanding classroom of coaches at Syracuse University.

The guy that's kind of been behind in the back of the classroom not getting it done is the football team. I really hope that we can move to the front of the class, so to speak.

I understand what that means. There's no doubt in my mind that John is going to give me every opportunity to be successful. As long as he's going to do that, I think when he comes down the hall in four or five years to say, Hell of a job, or, We're going to have to go a different direction, I think he'll give me the type of support where I'll be okay with it either way.

The one thing I will say is he could come down the hall and say, We've got to give you an extension. That would be really cool. Three ways that story could end up. I'm hoping for the other two and not the first one.

Q. You talk about how you know what your student-athletes' tempo is going to be during the course of a start-up. What is your personal tempo like as you take on a new job?

COACH BABERS: With the new jobs, I really have to rely on my coaches. I'm one of the coaches across the country that have the tendency to bring a lot of coaches with him when he moves. I'm okay with that stigma or that label. I think if you want to start fast, you can't spend a lot of time coaching new coaches on what you want to do.

The one thing that we do is a little bit different. It's not west coast offense. It's not Don Coryell vertical stretch offense. It's not Jim Jones and the run-and-shoot. So from an offensive standpoint, we want to start fast.

Defensively when you have defensive coaches that have never coached in our style of practice before, they have growing pains. That's okay. We've got two new coaches on defense this year, one new coach on offense. But those growing pains slow down the players. The things that we don't want slowed down is our players. So as long as we come in with that tempo in our core, get that to our players, our coaches will all catch up, they're all professionals.

We have to hit the ground running the first year and get the tempo where we want it to be the second year. It usually happens game four or six in the second year where we hit the tempo we're looking for.


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