Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Syracuse Orange

Coach Dino Babers

Oronde Gadsden II

Garrett Shrader

Marlowe Wax

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Folks, good morning. We welcome you inside the grand ballroom here on the second floor of the Westin in uptown Charlotte. This will be the first of what will be 14 of our conversations with head coaches and student-athletes over the next three days here with the 2023 ACC Kickoff.

Head Coach Dino Babers with us first from Syracuse and then our student-athletes. Questions?

Q. Just wanted to kind of get your impressions of Jason Beck, the job he is doing, and how he is adjusting to the new role?

DINO BABERS: That's a great question. Jason is doing a fantastic job. Obviously this will be his second year with us. We felt like he has been with us a long time.

His personality is one of those personalities that's easy to get along with. The players are really motivated, and he really activates and can stimulate his personnel extremely well.

So we're excited about what's been going on in the spring, and we're looking forward to see what's going to happen in the fall with his first opportunity with us.

Q. Talk about your running game. What do you have to do this year to get the running game better because I know you lost Tucker to the Buccaneers. What do you have to do to get better?

DINO BABERS: I think the first thing is we've had a lot of turnover in the offensive line. Another fantastic question.

We need to get those guys solidified up front. As the big guys go, we go, whether that's the O-line or D-line. If we get that solidified, then we've got a host of characters that are looking forward to seeing if they can step into the shoes that Mr. Tucker left, and we wish him the best of luck with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But we feel like we've got adequate back there, but it always starts with the offensive line if you want to talk about the running game.

Q. You lost, what was it, five personnel from your coaching staff to different places this offseason. Just how difficult was it to kind of keep the team intact and keep the continuity that gave you a little bit success the first half of last season?

DINO BABERS: I didn't hear the second part of the question. Could you give me the second part again?

Q. Just how hard was it to kind of keep the continuity both on the team and just a good path on to being a good program?

DINO BABERS: First of all, with the transfer portal, the teams have changed. There's guys coming in and coming out.

With the coaches it was a little unique to have that many coaches leave, you but they all left for different situations, and I think the coolest thing about them leaving is that we got new personalities in. And for those young man, our family, our Ohana, our la familia, to have those new coaches come in and look at the young men through a different set of eyes and give them the positives and negatives from another coach being able to coach them and talk to them, I think it's going to reap benefits for us.

Sometimes they need to hear it from someone else when they've been too used to hearing it from the same person. It gives new life to players who may have been lost in the depth chart a little bit when the new coaches come in and they look at them through a different set of eyes. It may give them some opportunities that they may not have had before.

Q. Syracuse last year was one of the first teams in NCAA history to have a six-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season. We know that there was injuries to Garrett and injuries to multiple other players, but was that more so like an injury thing, or was it a lack of consistency? If so, how do you continue that consistency to build upon an excellent start like that if that is to happen again?

DINO BABERS: First of all, you have a fantastic shirt. I'm a little jealous of it. I could boat that thing. That's for sure. That's got my Aloha all over it.

The biggest thing it wasn't so much the injuries, it was who the injuries were. We lost seven out of our 22 starters in the first six games. Before we kicked off midseason against Clemson, we had already lost seven starters before we kicked the ball off.

These are seven bona fide fantastic players and leaders on the football team. So to me it was based off of more of not only the competition, but also the level of players that we left. With the transfer portal and name, image, and likeness, and things like that, it's very difficult to have a squad that's 44, 50, 60 guys deep. What normally happens is your good backups who aren't playing go somewhere else, and that's what's been happening to a lot of universities around the country.

So if you lose a fantastic guy, you've got good personnel behind them, but they just don't have the experience or they don't have the body size or growth that's needed because those solid guys have already gone to be starters somewhere else.

Q. My question to you is, what do you like most about the make-up of this team, and what should the fans expect from the Syracuse football this year?

DINO BABERS: First of all, the three men behind me along with Justin Barron, one of our captains, is not here. The leadership group on this team is extremely strong. They're getting an opportunity based off of what happened last year to continue that legacy. These guys are locked in. These guys are focused, and they want to do some things that hasn't been done in a long time at Syracuse University.

Whether they're able to do that, we're going to have to wait and see, but it's not from a lack of effort. I've seen these guys. I've been around them. I know how hard they work this summer, and they're ready to put their best foot forward, and I'm excited to see what we can do.

Q. You mentioned Sean Tucker and the Buccaneers a little bit ago. I have to ask. What do you think Bucs fans should know about him?

DINO BABERS: First of all, he is -- although he is quiet, he is a very loud worker. He won't say much, so don't listen to that part. You wouldn't hear it anyway, but just watch with your eyes because he is a very, very diligent, very hard worker, and I have not seen him not be able to accomplish something that he set his mind to.

Q. So we always talk about player expectations, player goals. What are your personal coaching goals for this season heading into 2023, and how do you want this year's legacy to be for the Syracuse program?

DINO BABERS: First of all, legacies are created by players. I'm just fortunate enough and blessed enough to be out in front of these young men and hopefully giving them the type of leadership they need to achieve the success that they want.

When it comes to what they're capable of doing, they're capable of doing amazing things as long as they do it together. As long as they don't care who gets the credit, as long as they drop the "E" so we can all G-O in the same direction as one and not as many, then we'll have an opportunity to do amazing things.

Q. Coach Babers, good morning. How many times have you brought a sophomore to this event, and talk about the tight end that's to your left and what he has meant to the team over the past year?

DINO BABERS: Well, you're going to put me on the spot. I would imagine that I may not have ever brought a sophomore to this event. I'm not quite sure, but I would bet that "never" is a good answer.

Oronde is different. He is older than his years. He was well-tutored before he got to us from his dad, who played for the Dolphins. He is very mature about his work. When I think about him, I think about Matthew Bergeron, who was the second-round pick of the Falcons who is in camp right now. I think of Zaire Franklin, who is a seventh-round pick by the Colts, who everyone said was going to get cut, and I think he has been captain three years in a row now.

I think about young men that came into the program and they were older than their years, extremely focused, locked in academically, and they know exactly what they want. When you talk about OG, okay, those are the things that you're talking about at Syracuse University.

Q. About Oronde, what has been his development in terms of his play? How has his game changed and grown? Do you consider him a wide receiver or tight end?

DINO BABERS: I consider him a tight end, but you guys can consider him whatever you want. When you put the little equal, what does that equal? It equals football player and someone that needs to touch the ball because if he touches the ball a lot, usually after the game you feel really good.

Q. You talked about the leadership of your team, the players behind you. Who is somebody on your team this year that not a lot of people, rather, are talking about that you would like to highlight?

DINO BABERS: I would normally do that, but if I do that, the ones I don't highlight will get mad. It is one of those things where we all work together, and everybody that's behind me outside of OG, has been voted by their peers. This is not a manipulation of votes in any manner. In our program, whoever gets the votes are the guys that are going to get the Cs on their chest. We have three guys that have Cs. Marlowe and Garrett is two of them. Justin Barron is the third.

Then when we get done with August workouts, the team will vote for three more, and we go into the season with six. Six guys wearing Cs, but everybody on that football team that doesn't have a C on their chest is also a leader in some form or fashion. We're a family, and the older brothers lead the younger brothers, and that's the way the family moves.

Q. You've talked a lot about Oronde developing as the top receiving option. You talked a lot last year about the receiving race per se. Can you touch on what the competition has been like for options behind Oronde in camp?

DINO BABERS: I'll tell you what, it's been exciting. There are some guys that have made huge improvements. I'm visualizing them right now, and it's plural. It's not singular. We're excited to see where we go with that group.

I hope they're listening. I hope they're watching. I hope their parents are as well because that group has really improved, and I can't wait to see it put on display on what they're capable of doing and whether they're willing and ready to match the challenge.

THE MODERATOR: I'll ask the last question from the podium. I'm curious, you're starting your eighth year. Been a lot of highs and a lot of lows. Been COVID through that. What have you learned in what has now been seven seasons at the helm?

DINO BABERS: I think the biggest thing is that the ACC is a conference that needs to be reckoned with. From top to bottom, you can get beat at any time. The athletes don't get enough credit, especially when even they move on to the next level, of how efficient and how well-coached they were in this conference.

You have coaches that roll in and coaches that roll out. That's part of our business, but I think as the new guys come in every year, they look around the room, and they're surprised by how well the coaches are. This is a well-coached conference. It's one of those conferences that it's a real privilege to be a part of.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you. We'll have Oronde up. Questions for Oronde.

Q. When Coach uses words such as "mature" and phrases such as "older than his years," what does that do for your overall morale and how you produce on and off the field?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: It gives me some boost of confidence. I don't think he means older than years than just my age but how I know how to play the game, the rules, knowing how to try to be a leader. I'm usually a lead-by-example type of guy.

Q. How has your game grown and developed in your years in Syracuse, and do you consider yourself a wide receiver or a tight end?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: I probably would consider myself a hybrid type of player. I don't really have a position right now.

The biggest thing that's probably grown is probably my weight. Coming in at 185, 190, and now I'm about 225, 230. I think I've just gotten better at running routes, catching the ball. I've always been good at catching the ball, but I've gotten even better now. I'm still working on blocking.

Q. So we know that you consider yourself a hybrid and versatile and like Dino said, getting you the ball generally leads to good results. If you had to describe your game in one or two words -- I know you don't like labels, but if you had to describe your game or label it in one or two words, what would it be?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: Go-getter. Want to get the ball. Want to score touchdowns. Want to make plays.

Q. You talk about being a hybrid player. Are there any players on your team or any players in the NFL like a Kyle Pitts or Evan Engram that you try to model your game after, so that way you can be effective both split out wide and also down at the line of scrimmage?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: Yeah, mostly those two guys that you just named are guys that I would probably model my game after. I want to be able to play end line, tight end, play in the slot and outside.

Q. Oronde, I covered your father at Winston-Salem State, and Coach Babers talked about you have been well-schooled. How much of that came from your father, and what were the main things that he taught you about playing football and playing the position of wide receiver?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: I would say probably 90% came from him. The other 10% just came from any other coaches, which when I mean any other coaches, anyone he has played with or played against, so all NFL guys are dudes that are teaching me the game.

THE MODERATOR: A question from the podium here. You're a dual major in broadcast and digital journalism and information management and technologies. With all that, what do you want to be when you grow up?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: I actually switched my major to what you just said. I have economics and minor in finance, and I've been interning with Pinnacle Investment Firm for the past three summers from 11:00 to 5:00 every day, every week day. I can get into that field probably when I'm done with football.

THE MODERATOR: Apologies from the podium. Any other questions for Oronde?

Oronde, last question for you at the podium: Do you have to win an ACC championship in order to call it a successful season?

ORONDE GADSDEN II: I don't think you have to do that to call it a successful season, but it's something that every team in the ACC wants to do.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Oronde. If you would like to switch places with Garrett and get your quarterback up.

Questions for Garrett.

Q. You have played 35 games throughout your college career. Can you put a value on just how important that is that you've kind of seen it all, done it all? Especially running Coach Beck's office, there really isn't a lot that you haven't encountered since you have been in the game.

GARRETT SHRADER: Absolutely. I have been blessed to be here, where I'm at now, and I know that I definitely have taken a journey, which is the road less traveled coming from another school. This is my first OC in five years, and so there's not been a lot of consistency, three head coaches.

But I'm grateful for where I'm at and the guys that I have around me. I have learned that that's what matters the most. We have a great head coach and offensive coordinator in Coach Beck. He is a great guy and just a leader. You can see it in his family.

It's been awesome, and I'm excited for what we're going to do this year. Especially because we are running the same offense. First time running the similar offense, different OC. Coach Beck does a lot of exciting stuff. We have a lot of different little minor details where we can get guys in different positions, so we have the best chance for success.

Q. Garrett, you talked all about Coach Beck a minute ago. Can you touch on your relationship with him being your quarterbacks coach and now being your OC?

GARRETT SHRADER: Yeah, absolutely. He has a different approach toward the game and just the air raid the way that he has learned and the way he sees the game of football. It's been relieving because he is not a very strict and authoritarian, I guess would be the right word. He wants you to go out and play loose and play fun and just go out and make plays.

Just the way -- his approach to the game and the mindset that he has given me and the way that I've been able to play, it's been awesome to see and just the development that I've had just in the last year and then what we're going to be able to do this year.

Q. I'm going to kind of continue the terms we're talking about your offensive coordinator, Coach Beck. Robert Anae, who is now with the Wolfpack has a history of having successful seasons with quarterbacks. You mentioned that this offense is pretty much the same. I guess it's a little tweaks here and there. Can you expound on that a little bit more?

GARRETT SHRADER: Absolutely. Starting last year we had a phenomenal running back. We had a totally different identity in what we thought we were going to be. By the end of the year that changed, and due to injuries and other things, we had to switch more personnel sets and do different things, which is part of the reason why we had to struggle just out of necessity.

I feel like we have a clear-cut identity this year and where we're going to be. It's the same offense, but it will look a little bit different, and I think we'll be a lot more explosive. I know we'll be a lot more explosive. Score a lot more points, a lot more explosive plays. We have a great group of guys. We have a great receiving room. Oronde leading the charge there. We are deeper than we have ever been since I've ever been here on the offensive line and our receivers have grown tremendously, and our running backs as well. We have studly running backs.

I'm excited to see what we're going to do. We have all the pieces, and now we just have to put it together.

Q. Garrett, your story is very similar to Coach Babers in that they have seen some very high highs and very low lows, particularly last season where you had the third highest completion percentage in program history, but then some nagging injuries and whatnot that kind of had you unavailable there. Coming into this season, how do you build upon a season where when you were healthy, the offense was rolling and there was so much success? How do you build upon that for this year?

GARRETT SHRADER: I think it's been -- the biggest thing is to learn from what we did good and the things we didn't do so well. There was times where we weren't necessarily playing well, but we found a way to come out and win. I think of the Purdue game. When it seems like everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but we still found a way to pull it out.

We've been in a ton of close games, so I think the ability to learn from those, I think that throughout the years that we've been here, all those things will come out this year, and all the lessons that we've learned. We had a young team. We've had a young -- a little bit older team, and now our team is finally maturing. I think we're at the point where we're going to be able to turn a lot of heads this year. Like we did last year, but just being able to stay healthy and being consistent and being able to do that throughout the course of the year will be important to us.

Q. Just different running backs now. LeQuint Allen, Sean Tucker leaves the program. What's the difference between the two backs, and what's your chemistry with LeQuint like these days?

GARRETT SHRADER: I love LeQuint and Sean Tuck, too, as well. He was a hard worker. I wish the best for him. With LeQuint Allen, he has a totally different skill set, and we're trying to taylor our offense to that as well.

Just Sean had different skill set, and they're both really good running backs. We're excited to see what LeQuint will be able to do this year, and he is a hard worker. He plays hard, and a lot of guys -- there's a lot of camaraderie built around him because of the way that he plays and the way that he shows up every day.

The best thing about him is he is just as good of a player without the ball as he is with the ball, and it's fun to see, and everybody loves watching him play.

THE MODERATOR: Last question from the podium: What's it like to be back in Charlotte?

GARRETT SHRADER: It's been awesome. Y'all moved this event back on us a little bit. It's kind of cutting -- I was able to drive down this time, so I didn't get to fly on the jet with everybody else, but it's been awesome.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. If you'll switch places with Marlowe, we'll spend our last five minutes with Mr. Wax.

Questions for Marlowe.

Q. This is a two-part question, first part may be a little bit of fun: Great linebacker, but people may not know you were a great running back in high school. Do you ever kind of nudge Coach Babers and say, hey, throw me back there, give me a shot, put me in a package?

MARLOWE WAX: Of course, that's an all-the-time conversation. I would love to get me just one carry before I leave Syracuse, but we'll see how it goes this season, though.

Q. The top I think 12 in tackles last year in the league. You hear people talk about you, and they say he just has a nose for the football. What is it about your playing style that leads to not only that physicality, but always being able to be around the football?

MARLOWE WAX: I feel like, like you said, just playing running back it helps me just see the defense better and see what the running back sees, because we all know if I see a hole, the running back also sees the hole. I just have a nose for where he wants to go. Just meet him there.

Q. Marlowe, you have been a leader on this defense from very early on, and you have been a very vocal leader, but that kind of translates to off the field with The Mob Podcast. First part of the question, are we getting The Mob Podcast back in 2023?

MARLOWE WAX: Yeah, for sure. Caleb is not going to let us not keep it going. It's definitely keeping going for the next season coming up.

Q. Second of all, with some of the guys that you all are having to replace defensively, with you being a leader, who is very vocal and all the things that go into that, is that something that naturally comes about for you or something you've had to intentionally work at to be more of an outspoken leader for your team and for your defense?

MARLOWE WAX: I probably would have to say that it didn't come easy. I was more of the laid-back guy, quiet guy, not really trying to be vocal, but as you all know, Mikel Jones, he is a great leader. He helped me a lot in that area in my game just being able to talk to the young guys, talk to teammates that's also older and just be more vocal and just be that person that people would look at and just listen to.

I gave a lot of praise and a lot of thanks to him. He just helped me a lot in that area.

Q. How is it going? I'm a Marylander. Talk to us about, one, growing up in Maryland, and what is it like playing football in Maryland?

MARLOWE WAX: Coming from inner city Baltimore, a lot of kids don't get to be in places like this in Power Five schools, so definitely big for me. I give a lot of thanks to my mom. She kept me in sports, kept me just, you know, around. Just not doing the wrong things. It's a dream come true to be standing right here talking to you right now.

Q. Marlowe, I feel like you got the best drip on Syracuse team, bro. Talk to us about your drip and what can we look forward to this season? That's my first part. Then also the second part, more seriously, what did this offseason's training look like for you? What did you want to attack, like areas in your game that you wanted to improve on, and take us into what this offseason training looked like?

MARLOWE WAX: I appreciate the compliment, first, though. A lot of arguments in the locker room about that, but I think that's a DMV thing. I think that's a Baltimore thing. That's where the style come from. I know the guys over here will be a little mad about that.

Talking about the offseason, just what I focused on was changing my body. Just being able to look more the part and be more in shape and just like as I'm now being a vocal leader, just being able to do all of that at once because I never really was the one to have to talk a lot on the field. Mikel was that person. Now I have to do all of that.

And just being ready just to, you know, take the first step forward and bring the guys up behind me.

THE MODERATOR: Marlowe, from the podium, a follow-up from earlier. There are a lot of new faces on this squad. What's it like trying to learn all of the personalities in such a relatively short amount of time?

MARLOWE WAX: I feel like us, Coach Babers talks about it a lot. As a team we're Ohana. We're a family. We're in the locker am radio always together and outside of the locker room always at the apartments and things like that. We're always together.

I feel like it's not really too hard. I'm with the young linebackers all the time. I'm with the receivers all the time. I live with offensive players, as a matter of fact. I never lived with a defensive player. We're just always intact, having fun. It's not really difficult at all.

Q. What's the biggest difference between Rocky Long as a defensive coordinator versus Tony White last year?

MARLOWE WAX: You can relate to them two differently. Coach White may be more of a people person. Rocky Long is an older guy. He sees football differently than how we see football now. Coach Long is a guru. He knows the defense through and through, and that's something I'm really thankful to have him here now. Just seeing the defense through a different lens, seeing how he -- just how he studies the game and how he loves to attack offenses and things like that.

I'm ready to see how this season goes and ready to see how he draws everything up.

THE MODERATOR: Last question from the podium. Where do you get your smile from?

MARLOWE WAX: My smile, I got to say my mom. My mother is a really, really joyful person. You never are going to see her in a bad mood. She keeps my energy up. She's my rock, so I got to give thanks to her for that.

THE MODERATOR: Syracuse, thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of the day.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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