Earlier this week when Dino Babers was reportedly set to take the Central Florida job, the current Bowling Green head man was pretty adamant that he wasn’t taking the job. In fact, he actually took to Twitter and specifically shot down UCF as a destination.
The rumors about me accepting a job at UCF are not true. I am focused on @BG_Football and winning a MAC Championship Friday night.
— Dino Babers (@CoachBabersCuse) November 30, 2015
And then, of course, Scott Frost swooped in and took the UCF job just as soon as it became clear that Syracuse University athletics director Mark Coyle wasn’t about to bend and give him an easy buy out as a part of his deal (his $850,000 buyout at UCF is a “get out of the job free” card, at any point in his tenure at Central Florida, a stark contrast to most other buyout clauses that are scaled and more heavily weighted toward the front end of the deal).
That’s when the focus shifted to Babers being the frontrunner for the Syracuse job, and that belief has picked up steam this week. USA Today’s Dan Wolken is particularly confident that Dino will be unveiling his high octane offense next season.
@JacobsDj082167 That's my understanding
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 4, 2015
So with the rumors of Babers to Syracuse continuing to pick up momentum as the week has progressed, obviously Babers was going to come out and strongly deny it, right? Well, not exactly.
Babers did address the speculation, but with an enormous “non-denial denial.” In other words, he dodged the question pretty nicely, saying simply that he’s focusing on tonight’s MAC championship game (which you can watch on ESPN2 tonight). Now, he’s been saying all week that he’s just focusing on winning a conference championship with his players at Bowling Green, but the fact that he didn’t bother to actually shoot down the Syracuse rumors in a similar fashion to how he handled the UCF rumors bodes well for Syracuse.
Obviously, a lot can change, but all indications are that Babers is on the verge of being “The Guy” for Syracuse, and a deal could be finalized as soon as tomorrow, from what I’m hearing.
Babers would be a home run hire from an offensive standpoint, though who he brings in as his defensive coordinator, if he comes to Syracuse, will be of the utmost importance. His current defensive coordinator, Brian Ward, is new to Dino’s staff this season, and while the defense isn’t exactly what you’d call “great” (89th in the nation in total defense, allowing 25.6 points per game, 255 passing yards per game, and 167 rushing yards per game), it’s been a pretty solid improvement over the first year Babers was at the helm. In 2014, Bowling Green was literally one of the worst defenses in the nation, ranking 118th in total defense and surrendering 33.5 points per game, 291 passing yards per game, and 202 rushing yards per game. The team has also dropped their penalties per game from 7.9 in 2014 to 6.6 this season.
Ward has a solid history of turning defenses around, albeit at the FCS level. The year before he got to Western Illinois, the team had one of the worst defensive units in the nation in terms of total defense, but jumped to seventh in FCS in total defense in 2013 with Ward calling the shots. His Western Illinois also held Melvin Gordon to just 38 yards and 2.2 yards per carry when the team played Wisconsin in 2014.
Obviously, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here since Babers isn’t even finalized to Syracuse. But hell, what the hell else are we going to do on a Friday in early December if not speculate? Work? Ha, not bloody likely.