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Babers

Despite a 1-10 campaign, Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said Friday that Dino Babers will be back for a sixth season as head coach of the Orange, and his seat won’t be any hotter than it has been in the recent past.

“The proverbial hot seat – take that and just delete it,” Wildhack said in response to a question about Babers’ job security during a Zoom conference Friday. “Dino’s going to be our coach in 2021. I hope he’s our coach for a long time. He knows that. I want him to be; the university does. He doesn’t enter 2021 on any kind of hot seat. It’s all about what we can do to get better in 2021 and how we develop them.

“The offseason is going to be incredibly, incredibly important. If we can get them through a traditional year in strength and conditioning, if we can get through spring football, we need time to develop this team. But I’m supportive of coach Babers.”

In five seasons, Babers, 59, has gone 24-36 with Syracuse. Save for a 10-3 season in 2018, the Orange haven’t won more than five games in a season.

Babers, who previously had a 19-7 record for two seasons at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and an 18-9 record for two seasons at Bowling Green (2014-15), signed a contract extension in 2018. The school described the length of the extension as one that “keeps the veteran coach at the helm of the program well into the future.”

The Orange lost their last eight games of 2020, but Wildhack believes Syracuse’s young players could blossom under Babers’ tutelage.

“The key word is development,” Wildhack said. “We’ve shown we have a number of young players that played and played quite well. When you start six freshmen against the No. 2 team (Notre Dame) in the country, that’s daunting to say the least. There’s no secrets in terms of where we need to improve upon, but the key word is the development of these young players. The potential’s there. We need to turn that potential into reality.”

Syracuse’s lone win came against visiting Georgia Tech, 37-20 on Sept. 26.

MELIFONWU TO TURN PRO

Syracuse redshirt junior cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu announced plans Friday night to forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

Melifonwu declared his intentions in a social media post in which he thanked God, his family, SU fans, coach Dino Babers and staff, and his teammates.

Melifonwu is the third member of SU’s starting secondary to begin the season aiming to be drafted next spring, joining Andre Cisco and Trill Williams, each of whom opted out and entered the draft after mid-season injuries.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound shutdown corner tallied an interception this year and finished fifth in the ACC with nine pass breakups. His average of five tackles per game was the third-best among ACC cornerbacks. He and redshirt freshman Garrett Williams combined to create the seventh-highest graded cornerback tandem in the FBS by Pro Football Focus College.

Melifonwu’s older brother, Obi, is an NFL free agent and a former second-round pick in 2017. He has appeared in seven games for the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.

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