Home Press Conference: Syracuse at the 2017 #ACCKickoff

Press Conference: Syracuse at the 2017 #ACCKickoff


Syracuse coach Dino Babers and players Zaire Franklin and Eric Dungey talk with reporters at the 2017 ACC Kickoff.


syracuseDINO BABERS: It’s wonderful to be back in North Carolina again. Syracuse University, our first year here in the ACC Atlantic, obviously, with the national champion Clemson Tigers, and being able to play in a conference, in a league with the type of football teams that we have is not only an honor, but it’s definitely a challenge.

In the second year of a rebuild with the type of schedule that we have, we have a very difficult task, but we’re looking forward to it. We understand that the way you get better is by playing the best teams, and there’s no doubt that some of the best football being played anywhere in the country right now is in the ACC.

With that, I’ll bring this to a close.

Q. Zaire, record-setting third time in a row that you’re here representing Syracuse for the ACC Kickoff. Just what it means to you to represent Syracuse for the whole team and also what it means for you to have been a captain up to this point for so long.
ZAIRE FRANKLIN: It’s an honor. I take a great deal of pride in it, honestly, that my coaches feel that way and the program honestly just gave me that responsibility to be represented and be considered an ambassador of the program for three straight years. I’m not going to lie, it’s not too fun the third time around, but I do it for Syracuse.

Q. Zaire, obviously the last game of the year, not something you guys want to think about, but 76 points, so how has that motivated you and the defensive guys to make some changes this fall?
ZAIRE FRANKLIN: You know, speaking of the last game of the year, like you said, it’s not one of the easiest games to watch, but it’s one that we critique the most. I think when you look at that Pitt game, it really just came down to making plays. I think that when we look back on it, it just makes us want to be more of playmakers and more difference makers on the field.

And it’s definitely helped motivate our team to get more in the film room, get more in the weight room, and get back out on the field to be able to put a better product on the field because the last thing you want to be thought of is the team that gave up 76 points. You’re only as good as your last outing, so we’re ready to get back out there and show the world that’s not who we are.

Q. Zaire, to look at the defense going into this season, the second season under Dino, just what you can say about how you guys have kind of gelled through the spring and how you’re working out here in the summer, just what you can say about how far along you are in this defense and how comfortable some veterans like yourself are in this defense.
ZAIRE FRANKLIN: A year or two under the same staff is definitely a major transition. Nothing comes as a surprise anymore. We are very comfortable, not only with the coaches, but also with the strength and conditioning staff, whether it’s all the summer workouts and all the — schemes-wise, we’re a lot more comfortable and ready to attack it, rather than just having things thrown at us and having to adjust.

Now under year two, under Coach Babers, we’re ready to get into camp and find out what kind of team we’re going to be.

Q. Zaire, some of the newcomers that we need to be excited about for Syracuse, what are they, and what do you like about them?
ZAIRE FRANKLIN: Oh, we have a couple of really talented freshmen. One is a receiver named Nykeim. He’s from D.C. He’s extremely fast, extremely talented, strong hands, hungry, works really hard, you know. Got a couple of grad transfers coming in, corner, Devin Butler, as well as one that just came from Toledo.

We’re just really excited about all the guys we’ve got coming in. All the guys that came in, whether grad transfer or freshmen, came in with the attitude of keeping their head down and being ready to work, and that’s all you can really ask from those guys. They’ve already been accepted to the team as family, and like I said, we’re just ready to get into the fall.

Q. I don’t know if you can see back here, but there’s about 30 tripods and most of the cameras have left; respect, how important is respect for this program and kind of getting things going in a better direction this year?
ZAIRE FRANKLIN: Respect is something that has to be earned, and we’re not — we’re no stranger to that fact. Coming to Media Day for the third year in a row, the first thing you understand — and everybody I came with, they’ve always noticed — is I guess you can necessarily — you can see kind of the pecking order in a sense, and I think there’s no more motivation than seeing that with your own two eyes.

So I think it’s just our job to make sure that next time I come in this room that everybody is in here.

Q. I know Moe Neal has moved around a lot for you guys. Talk about what he’s going to give your team this year, and obviously he had a good start to his career, first time he touches the ball he goes to the house as a running back.
ERIC DUNGEY: Yeah, Moe Neal, he’s a great kid. He’s put on some weight so he’s looking good. Excited. Coach will tell you more about him, but he can play any position basically. He’ll even say he can play quarterback, but he’s a great athlete, so I’m looking forward to him, and he’s made a lot of mental growth, as well.

Q. Eric, the front cover of the media guide says faster, and of course last year was Orange is the new fast, but you guys want to be faster. Can you talk about that, and how do you get faster?
ERIC DUNGEY: Yeah, just always got to go fast. I mean, fast is never fast enough. That’s the one thing I’ve learned from Coach Babers, is no matter how fast we’re going, we’re not going fast enough. That’s the tempo that I’m trying to push now upon the guys. Coach Babers has got instilled in my head, fast is never fast enough, and you can always get them with tempo.

Q. Just what you can say about growing through adversity and having injury for a couple seasons, just what you can say about the importance of staying healthy for you and how you’ve worked to get to a point where you can have that full season in front of you.
ERIC DUNGEY: Yeah, I mean, I’ve put on about 20 pounds since last season, so I’m finally at a playing weight that I’m comfortable with. But staying healthy, it’s obviously important. You need a quarterback out there, and I’ve taken the most reps, and that’s the most important thing is getting reps in this offense. I’m doing my team bad if I’m not out there, and it’s unfair to them, so I’ve just got to protect my body.

Q. How long did it take you to adjust to the tempo that Coach Babers wants to play, part one? And, part two, once you got it rolling — and I realize that fast is never fast enough — but once you got it rolling at a level at which he was maybe somewhat satisfied, what did you see in your opponents’ eyes as they tried to defend you, adjust, and keep up with you?
ERIC DUNGEY: I would say probably the most comfortable I felt was that Boston College game. That’s when I really started — things started clicking. Things started slowing down for me. Year two, game 4, that’s what Coach says, that’s when it’s really going to start clicking. Unfortunately I, didn’t get those last four games, so I’ve been trying to put as much work in as I could just to get as many reps in my head. But I believe with those repetitions that it’s going to come good.

Q. Year two, game 4 is what we’ve been told that things are going to start turning. Talk about the importance of this season in that regard and kind of getting things going, like I said to Zaire, in a good direction.
ERIC DUNGEY: Yeah, I mean, it’s very important. Obviously we’re out here, Zaire and I and everybody, we’re competitive. Hate losing. Like you said about the tripods, nobody is here to see us. It fires me up. I just want to win. That’s my main goal, no matter what I have to do. That’s what I want to do is win.

Whatever I have to do, whether it’s in the film helping other guys out, that’s what I try to do, and that’s what the team has been doing, as well.

Q. Just what you can say about bringing in four wide receivers, Coach Babers and the staff’s dedication to the offense and dedication to you having some new weapons out there.
ERIC DUNGEY: It’s awesome. You can never have enough weapons out there. The receivers that we brought in, they’re learning right now, a couple are looking really good, and a couple you can tell are going to be very good, so I’m excited to see their growth and how they adjust.

Q. How does it motivate you when you come to an event like this and all you hear is Clemson and Florida State?
ERIC DUNGEY: Yeah, I mean, like I said, just fires you up. Kind of makes me just want to go back and start working again. I’m going to. But it’s kind of — you play with a chip on your shoulder. It’s kind of how it’s been the past couple years. I’m excited for next year. I think we’re going to surprise some people.

Q. Moe Neal makes an impact as a running back, you’ve moved him around a little bit. Talk about his role in your team this year and I guess those new wide receivers have some role, as well.
DINO BABERS: Moe is just such a versatile player. Obviously hometown boy, you guys want to know about him. He has the ability to play numerous positions. We’re so young in the development of our football family and what we’re trying to get done at Syracuse, that he has the ability to help us in numerous areas. And because of that, you know, we need to move him around and make sure that he’s in the best spot for us. As the team develops, he may be — one year he may be able to help us more as a running back and another year he may be able to help us more as a wide receiver as we get more and more weapons around him and in the institution.

He’s a very versatile guy, and we’re lucky to have him.

Q. As far as bringing in some transfers like Jordan Martin and Devin Butler as well as some junior college players, just what you can say about some guys that have had that experience, to add some depth on your team, about that leadership coming in even though they’re new, just what you can take away from some of that leadership coming in.
DINO BABERS: I’m not going to talk about guys that haven’t played for us yet, but when you look back last year and what Amba did for our wide receiving corps transferring from the University of Maryland where I believe he had like, I don’t know, 40 career catches and he goes almost over 100 catches, third-team All-American for us in one year, we’re looking for impacts like that. But we’re not going to talk about those young men who are part of our family now who just started to work with us until we see what they do on the football field.

Q. 20 starters back, tops in the country. How much does that fuel what you’ve been saying, that game 4, year two, things are going to get noticeably better?
DINO BABERS: Well, first of all, we have 20 starters coming back, but some of that had to do with injuries. We had major injuries last year with our seniors, and a lot of those guys had to play a little bit earlier than what they should have played. Now, that’s a negative and that’s also a positive with them coming back.

One of the things that we noticed last year that we were playing so many freshmen, that when you’re playing in the ACC, physically they weren’t really ready to play, although they gained a lot of experience. With the experience that they gained and going back in with the strength and conditioning program that we’ve got going on, they’ve gotten bigger. Some of the guys have added 10, 15, 20, 24, 30 pounds of muscle, not fat. I mean, these guys are walking around as 19 year olds and they’re looking like they’re 21 and 22 and that’s going to help us.

But when you’re in our conference, two of the last four National Championships won from people in the ACC Atlantic, two out of the last four Heisman Trophy winners from the ACC. You need to make sure that your elephants grow up, your O-line, D-line, linebackers. Those guys need to be 20 and 22 years of age if you’re going to be able to really make an impact in this conference. Right now, our guys are just 19-year-olds and no one is going to cry about that, but we’re going to go out there, we`re going to play every game and hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to play and win every one that we play. But we understand that we have a long row to hoe.

On the second part of your question, second year, game 4, everywhere I’ve been — this is my third stop — that’s when the lightbulbs go on. I don’t know why. It’s somewhere around there, plus or minus two. But somewhere in the second year, somewhere around the middle of the season, they get it. What it is, I don’t know, but that normally is what happens, and the team and everything starts to change.

I’m all for that thing happening this year, second year, somewhere around game 4.

Q. On the leadership of Eric Dungey on offense as well as Zaire Franklin on defense, what can you say about their veteran leadership and the importance of them representing the team here today.
DINO BABERS: Let me talk about Zaire since he’s already stepped out of the room. I don’t like talking nice about him when he’s around. Before I met him, someone came up to me and said hey, who’s going to be your captains, and I said, I don’t know yet. And the individual said Zaire is going to be your captain. I said I didn’t know who Zaire was. I’m like, okay, great.

And then I met Zaire, and I told him somebody said you were going to be my captain and he says, yeah, I will be. I said, wait a minute, now, we’ll see about that. After about five practices, he was. Zaire is very, very unique. I’ve never seen anybody with him. If he plays and has the type of season that he’s supposed to have, he’ll be, I think, the second three-time captain in the history of Syracuse football, and our history goes way back. Way back. And it’s just — it’s a testament to the type of young man that Zaire Franklin really is, and he really, really is an amazing individual.

When you talk about Eric Dungey, Eric Dungey is the quarterback of an up-tempo, fast, NFL-style offense. It is not a Ford Pinto. It is a racing car, okay. Don’t get Ford mad at me. I know Ford doesn’t make the Pinto anymore. When I was in high school, I drove a Ford Pinto, hatchback, baby blue in color, hatchback. But he`s not driving a Pinto; he`s driving a racing car. And when we go around corners, the tires need to sing, and that’s the way we handle our offense. He’s an extension of the coaching staff, and if you’re not ready for that responsibility, then you probably need to go play quarterback somewhere else. Because it’s a big-time job for a big-time individual, and if you can handle it, good things will happen to you. Just ask the people before him.

Q. I think most would agree that in the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech’s offense is unique and a challenge to prepare for. With the diversity in your offense, and above all, the speed at which you play, what are the preparation issues that you create for opposing defenses?
DINO BABERS: You know, I don’t know, and I’m not trying to slight the question. I’ve never played our offense before, so I really don’t know that. I’ve heard that people say there’s difficulties because of this and difficulties because of that. I’m not really sure how to answer that. I know that internally we do a lot of things, and we’re not exactly like a lot of other people, and when you try to say, hey, they’re a spread team or they’re a this team, I don’t really believe we fall into those categories.

But I think that we’re unique, and hopefully that uniqueness gives them some difficulties during the week. From other people telling me it’s the type of offense that they need to spend time on during the spring and they need to spend time on during the summer breaking it down, but I really don’t know the answer.

Q. What about the pace, though?
DINO BABERS: The pace? Well, let me answer this a different way. I know we’re having an issue with football games being too long, and we’re talking about shortening the halftime, kicking the ball off when it hits 0:00 to make sure that the game shortens. I know another way they could speed up the game, if the official just marks the ball and gets the heck out of the way, I think we can speed the game up and make the game a whole lot shorter.

Q. The cover of the media guide says faster. Eric just talked about the pace and I noticed you’re wearing sneakers. Is there something to that?
DINO BABERS: I’m not wearing sneakers. These are expensive shoes. They’re not sneakers, but they do feel like sneakers. You know, we just really believe that — we want to play basketball on turf. We want to play basketball on grass. When you think about the Los Angeles Lakers and Showtime and what the Golden State Warriors do, we want to spread out the football field. We want you to defend the entire football field, and we want to play as fast as humanly possible. Based off of that speed and based off of that tempo, we want to make calls.

I think it’s a fun way to watch the game, and I definitely think it’s an equalizer when you don’t have some of the advantages that some of the more traditional schools have in the top 10 or in the top 20 part of rankings in the UPI and stuff like that. We like it. We think it’s a niche. We think we have a little bit of an advantage with it. Obviously it didn’t work out versus South Carolina last year, but you know, we’ll see this year.

Q. When you talk about pace, with pace comes patience. How is it that you teach patience to 19- and 20-year-olds?
DINO BABERS: You know, patience is a virtue, and one of the things that we — even though we play fast, I don’t want people to think that we play reckless. When I say, hey, you’re driving a racing car and the tires are supposed to sing when you come out of the curve, if you’ve ever gone to a racing track, those guys are great drivers, the cars are fantastic cars, kept in top-notch shape, and every time you make a turn, the tires sing because that’s what they’re supposed to do. Our players are extremely patient. They’re not reckless. And when we’re attacking defenses at tempo, we’re very calculated in how we do that. It’s not just a situation of calling something as fast as you can and hoping that you have good luck. There’s a lot more structure to that, and it’s a lot more complicated than that. That’s a fantastic question. Thank you for asking.



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.