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July 19, 2018

Dino Babers

Chris Slayton

Eric Dungey

Charlotte, North Carolina

Q. Eric, having the fastest tempo offense in the country, every 21.1 seconds snapping the ball, what can you say about being a part of the fastest tempo and Dino getting to where he wanted to go essentially with making sure that it was the fastest. And then secondly, what you think about Dontae and Moe running the ball this year?
ERIC DUNGEY: I think Coach will always tell you it's not fast enough, so that's what he's going to tell us. That's what he's been harping on us, and for our practices that's what I've been trying to do, I've just been trying to up the tempo even faster because the faster we go, the better it goes.

And then Moe and Dontae, I can't say enough good things about them. Moe has really transformed his body. He came in a little bit small but he's been really putting on weight. Every week in the weight room he's been PR'ing, whether it's bench squat or hang clean. And Dontae, he's just a veteran, so he's savvy, he runs hard, you know what you're going to get out of him. He's been one of my best friends since I've been here been. Been through it all together, so I'm looking forward to seeing how those guys go at it.

Q. Eric, I'm from Moe's hometown paper. He played receiver and running back in high school and has done some of that for you. Is he still doing some of that transition or are you all pretty much honed in on him being a running back?
ERIC DUNGEY: Right now we're just kind of doing the player-led practices, so he mixes in with the receivers and does all that just to get some experience out there. Moe is a very versatile athlete. He can do a lot. He's very fast, very quick, and he's very savvy. So he's got good hands, he's got real good cutting ability, looking forward to seeing what he does. I'm not the coach, so I'm not going to make a decision on where he plays, but personally I can see him playing anywhere really.

Q. So many schools now have dual-threat quarterbacks, and that's led to some really explosive offenses, especially in the Atlantic Division. In your case, you're Syracuse's leading runner. How much fun do you have running the football? What makes you running quarterbacks so difficult to stop, and what's the risk reward?
ERIC DUNGEY: You know, running the football is real fun. It's just kind of one of those things -- I'm a competitive person, so I want to do what I've got to do to win. But from a game plan perspective, it's very tough. If you have a dual-threat quarterback, you kind of have to account for another person to watch him, so it kind of limits the pass game. And if you're going to have more people in the pass game, you can run the ball a little easier. If you've got a savvy quarterback who understands coverages and stuff like that, you're always a man up with that.

Q. Eric, you've had an All-American wide receiver each of the past two seasons. What have you seen out of that position during the spring and in the summer?
ERIC DUNGEY: So during the spring and summer, I'm seeing a lot of young guys with the potential. That's what I'm going to say, a lot of potential in the room, so just waiting for that one guy to step up during our workouts and all that. We've got a lot of guys that look good, but still waiting on that guy to be consistently good, not occasionally great as Coach says. That's what I've been looking for.

We've got some veterans in there, but the young guys is who I'm excited about. They're going to have a major impact whether it's this year or two or three years down the road. They're going to make a lot of noise.

Q. Between Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips you lost about 2,200 receiving yards. Who would you say are the next Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips?
ERIC DUNGEY: Well, in my sophomore year, you guys were saying, You lost Amba, so what are you going to do next? And then Steve and Irv stepped up, so people saying the same thing. I'm still waiting to see that. But like I say, I see a lot of young guys. We've got four or five guys in my mind that I think could be those next guys. Obviously somebody is going to catch the ball, so we've just got to wait and see who it is.

Q. Last year you guys pulled the big upset of Clemson. Coach Swinney actually came in y'all's locker room after the game. What was that like for you guys?
ERIC DUNGEY: Well, the win was great, so that's what was great for us. Coach Swinney, he's a class act, so it was cool to see that. But for us personally, 4-8 -- but you look at the games, a lot of the people, a lot of reporters say, 4-8, they're a bad team. You look at our schedule, I don't see a lot of teams going on our schedule and putting up wins like that. We're in every game, and unfortunately in November I wasn't able to play, but I'm looking forward to this year and going out there and giving it all.

Q. Eric, I wanted to ask you a little bit about what you think about Syracuse's defense running some more early down nickels. You've played in this conference for three years now, seen a bunch of different defenses. What do you think about that fit, and how can that change what the defense does?
ERIC DUNGEY: I think it fits our personnel great. I'm not a defensive coach so can't speak much on that. I'll let Chris speak more on that and Coach. But personally, I think the coach is going to do what we've got to do to put us in the best situation to win. So that's really all I can say on that.

Q. Eric, like you said, the last two seasons, like you said, 4-8. There were some positives, a win over Virginia Tech and Clemson. How do you build off of that and just what you can say about staying the process, and from the outside looking in, it's 4-8, but from the inside looking out, what do you see?
ERIC DUNGEY: You know, Coach brought us something interesting last year. I didn't even really realize it, but Miami last year -- I think the year before they were just right on the hump, in these games, and I think that's what we were like last year. We had one possession here and there that could have really changed the outlook on our season.

It's just learning how to win and playing against the best schools and the best teams. You're not going to get better playing against lower competition, so you want to be with the best, you've got to play against the best. I'm looking forward to that, and that's what our schedule has been in the past three years. You know, I think personally it's given us a lot of experience, and for that I'm looking forward to going into the next year.

Q. Chris, what you've been able to take away from the defense under Brian Ward, just what you can say about learning that -- because obviously you came in with a different set and then switched. What can you say about that defense and what you like about it building forward from here?
CHRIS SLAYTON: Well, what I like about it is that it gives the D tackles a lot more leeway in terms of assignments and things to do. And then the defensive scheme we had, it was a little more aggressive, and this game is not as aggressive as it has been in the past. Also, like the whole nickel situation, it gives us like another personnel, and that gives us a lot of things to do.

Q. Chris, you lost a lot of linebackers with the defense; what can you tell us about guys like Whitner and Guthrie who are going to play behind you this year?
CHRIS SLAYTON: They're vets. They fill in Zaire and Parris Bennett's shoes. Those are big shoes to fill, but our young linebackers, they're young and aggressive, and it's only going to help us out a lot.

Q. Chris, I'm curious, does your role change much running more early down nickel this year? Do you feel like there's maybe more on your shoulders stopping the run?
CHRIS SLAYTON: No, I don't think so. We have so much depth on the D-line. It's as much as it's been -- as long as I've been here, so much depth, and everybody is getting better. So I feel like my role doesn't change as much.

Q. The last win for the team came back on October 13th. That's a long time to sit with that. How do you reconcile all of what 2017 was as you prep for 2018?
CHRIS SLAYTON: You know, going back to last season, we obviously didn't finish strong, as strong as we would like. But that's been the whole focal point for this off-season, just starting off strong and then just continuing to fight and finishing the season off strong.

Q. Just to kind of follow up on that, I know everything is not controllable in this sport, but what do you think the defense can do to maybe prepare itself to finish this season strong?
CHRIS SLAYTON: Just having a better leadership. That comes from myself and a lot of the older guys. I'm becoming a better leader, and it's guys like Antwan Cordy, Chris Frederick, like the young guys are going to depend on them as well as myself. Just to be a better leader and to get those guys going, moving, finishing off strong.

Q. You just spoke about leadership; what can you say, even though it's on the other side of the ball, what Eric Dungey has meant to this team, what he means to you and this program?
CHRIS SLAYTON: Eric, he's a tough quarterback. Being on the defensive side, that's all we're about, just being physical and just mentally strong, and seeing a guy like that that's a veteran, it only boosts our confidence and makes us tougher. He's a great leader. He's vocal. He's smart. That's what we're going to need.

Q. Coach, two years ago you came in saying you guys were going to be fast. Last year it was even faster. What would you say is going to be the motto for this team this year?
DINO BABERS: You know, I think the motto needs to be that we're doing everything we can to bring a good football team into the month of November. But one thing that I've realized going into my third season here in the ACC and the ACC Atlantic is just how physical this conference is. Unfortunately for our football team, the team that we've lined up and played with in August and September and October has not been the exact same type of team personnel-wise that we played in November, and I think it really leads to the success that we've had early and the un-success that we've had late.

It's really important for us to find a way not only to stay true to our motto to play fast but to also find a way to finish and to finish the month off November the way we've played September and October.

Q. Eric had brought up consistently good, not occasionally great, just what you can say about going into year three knowing that you have some of those wins that you can build off success-wise but trying to build that consistency, what you see out of the team moving forward.
DINO BABERS: I think Eric is exactly right. We had some close losses last year, and what we've got to do, we've got to mirror the season that NC State had. NC State had some close wins last year that really set them off to one of the better seasons that they've had with Coach Doeren, and my hats off to him. When you're taking over a losing football team and trying to change it to a winning football team, there comes that time when you reach that bridge where all of a sudden one minute you're not in games, and then the next minute you're in games, and they're close games and you can't be satisfied. You can't settle for just being close.

I think that's -- I don't think that we settled last year, but I think that was the bridge that we were on. So we've been close, and now it's time to get over the hump and get on the other side of that bridge and find a way to win those games and finish out the season.

Q. Moe Neal was one of your first recruits, been a versatile player. I know you've used him at both running back and wide receiver. What does his role look like this year?
DINO BABERS: You know, once again, Eric was correct. I think we've got some young talented people at the wide receiver position. Therefore we're always looking for position flexibility because of the lack of depth we have at our University. But Moe Neal will be exclusively a tailback this year, so he won't be playing wide receiver for us at all. Again, one of our top players and one of the guys that can really make some plays for us. I think he's gotten a lot bigger, he's added some weight to his frame, and hopefully he'll continue and be more consistent with his explosiveness and be able to make plays for us carrying the football, especially in those later months in November.

Q. I was curious to get your thoughts on the new redshirt rule, allowing guys to play in up to four games while maintaining their redshirt status. Just general thoughts, and is there any kind of feeling that it would have been perfect to have last year?
DINO BABERS: Let me do the latter. It would have been real good last year. I'll just leave it at that. The rule really gives the coaches a lot of flexibility. You don't really know how the rule is going to play out because it's such a new rule. And what I mean by that, it might be a situation most likely where you have lack of depth at a certain position -- you're trying to redshirt either a junior college or a freshman football player -- and because of the lack of depth in maybe that month of November where you're decimated and position group is not the same, that now you can play one of those young men that are really, really talented but they don't have the game experience. But maybe it gives you an opportunity, maybe you can simplify one side of the ball and see if their athletic ability can come out.

I think for everyone to believe that all these freshmen are going to get an opportunity to automatically play four games in their freshman year is not true. If you have an opportunity to have a game where you get to put other people in the game, your first responsibility is to the depth of your football team. So if the ones aren't out there, you need to put the twos out there. And if you look across especially our schedule the last two years, there's not a lot of teams that we've been able to blow out where we can put people like that in, and I think that has to speak for a lot of teams in the ACC Atlantic. Unless you've got certain surname on the back of your jersey, those games are difficult and they're always close. So you just don't have the freedom or the luxury to just play so-and-so's son or so-and-so position to give them experience for recruiting. So you've got to play those games to win, or I don't get an opportunity to address you guys for years and years and years to come up here.

So I think the rule will flow. I think it will adjust every year. I think it's a fantastic rule. I really do. And I think it's something that we needed in college football based off of the injuries that we've been having later on in the season and the type of people that we've been putting out on the football field.

Q. You guys stunned Clemson last year, had a crazy locker room celebration. Coach Swinney after that tough loss came in your locker room and talked to your team. What did that mean to your team, and talk a little bit about your relationship with Coach Swinney.
DINO BABERS: Well, first of all, I was gone to the press conference, so I wasn't there. Dabo, I have a great respect for Dabo, and if I was there, I'd have let him do it. He is a very unique person, a very -- I think I see him as a very truthful person. His personality and his ethics is on his sleeve, and I think he's one of those individuals in college football where what you see is what you get. I think he's exactly what you guys appear him to be. Now, I may be wrong. I've been wrong before. I've been old enough to be wrong before. But my gut tells me that I'm right about Dabo Swinney.

Q. Obviously the way you play you're going to have some high scoring games. You've had a lot of them, especially late in the season when you had injuries. What do you expect of your defense this year, and what's realistic?
DINO BABERS: I expect our defense to be better. I realistically think that they should be better. I think that we're more talented over there on that side of the ball since I've been here. This is the most talent we've had on that side of the ball since we've been there. Some of that talent is very experienced like the young men sitting behind me, and some of that talent is very inexperienced. But there's no doubt in my mind that we're talented over there, so now we have to decide on how complicated or how simplistic we want to be with the talent that we have not only on that side of the ball but on the offensive side of the ball, as well.

The recruits are better, and we need to -- and hopefully we'll see better results on the football field.

Q. You've seen this is the most experienced offensive line that you've had during your time at Syracuse. What have you seen from them, and what do you think that experience can do for you going into the season with your team?
DINO BABERS: You know, I came from a big family. I've got three sisters -- one of my sisters just called me today and wished me a happy birthday. I've got two other brothers, so we were kind of like the Brady bunch, only not exactly like them, know what I mean. So three boys, three girls, and one thing about being in a big family is when you walk down the street, whether they're with you or not, you had family around. You know, West Side Story, got family around, Family Man? That's the way you feel when you have an offensive line and a defensive line.

Our offensive line is the best we've had since I've been there, and they are real big people that are like strong, real strong. So when you walk down the street, you want to walk with those guys, okay.

And not only do we have five of them that are really good, but I think we can go to seven, eight. We're as deep as we've been there. Not as deep as other football teams in the conference, but it gives us an opportunity to play a little big ball, or what I call pull up your boots, roll up your shirt sleeves and get after some people. It gives us an opportunity to be more physical than we've been in the past. It gives us an opportunity maybe to run the ball better than we have in the past, and if we have an opportunity to run the ball and move people around, we can help that defense a little bit and we can shorten some of those games. And when you get in the red zone, if you have the ability to run the football in the red zone and not just throw the ball in the red zone, you have a higher percentage of scoring points, which gives you an opportunity to maybe get away from some people.

So I think that's a huge advantage for us, and I think it's one of the keys to our season. Fabulous question.

Q. So today is your birthday?
DINO BABERS: Unfortunately, yes.

Q. Do you feel older today?
DINO BABERS: Oh, no, I don't feel old. That's a mental thing. No, I don't feel old at all. But I wouldn't want to spend it any other place except in front of you great people. (Laughter.)

Q. Going off of what you had said a couple minutes ago, building and establishing depth, I know you spoke about the offensive and defensive line, but as you look across the roster going into your third season, what can you say about that depth and if it's getting to where you want it to be at this point?
DINO BABERS: It's definitely heading in the right direction. I think that our two weakest positions I don't need to throw out there. I think we have a weak one on offense as far as experience, and I think we have a weak one on defense as far as experience. But like once again, like Eric said when he was up there, from a talent standpoint, it's the most talent we've had from senior to freshman since I've been there. Now, that doesn't mean everybody is ready to play. Some of them, potentially they can be outstanding. But we all know what potential is going to get us. But if we keep seasoning it and keep training it and keep working on techniques and fundamentals and we get enough time, we're going to be able to develop that. I'm anxious to get back to work on the 1st of August and see what we can come up with in the next 26 or 27 days before our first opponent to see if we can mature some of that talent to where we can have an outstanding season.

Q. You brought in Kirk Martin over the off-season. What does he bring to your coaching staff that maybe you haven't had in years past?
DINO BABERS: You know, I've always -- when you think about the job that the head coach at Auburn has done, when you think about the job of some of the best college football coaches, okay, started in the high school ranks and spent a lot of time in the high school ranks, Kirk Martin was a who's who of high school football coaches in the state of Texas. Manvel High School is one of the schools that you have to stop into when it comes to athletes and young men being taught the right way and doing it the right way. I do believe I think they lost the state championship game this year to Jerry Jones's grandson or nephew. I do believe it was one of those two, I'm pretty sure.

But he's a fabulous coach. And I think when you get high school coaches and you love them up to the collegiate levels and they have such a relationship with their players because they're used to dealing with not only 18 and 17 year olds but 16 and 15 year olds, and then translating the relationship that they have with their players on a collegiate level, I think that when you have the quality of man that Kirk Martin is that it turns out to be nothing but a win-win situation for you, for your University and for your community.

Q. This is your third season; what's the most important thing you've learned going back to your first year compared to your year this year?
DINO BABERS: Just how diverse the ACC is, how outstanding the coaches are in the ACC and the ACC Atlantic, and how difficult it is. This conference is no joke. People talk about other conferences. I've been in the Big Ten. I've been in the Pac-12. I've been in the Pac-12 when it was the Pac-10. I've been in the Big 12. You know, coaches come up here and they read their lines and they try to reinforce their conference, and everybody does that, okay. This is no baloney cheese for me. This conference is a real football conference. And the diversity of the coaches and the different ways that they try to attack you, I've never seen anything like this before.

So I think the brand of coaches are outstanding. Where we get our athletes from varies, but I think the type of athletes that we put on the football field are outstanding. And when you look at our records versus other conferences in bowl games, we need to -- we always talk about a fact is a fact. We'll look at the numbers. I mean, this conference is as good a football conference as the top conferences in the country, and then when you throw the basketball side in there, it might be the conference in the country.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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