FB : Orange insists Robinson’s dismissal won’t hinder play
Bruce Williams didn’t see any reason to break routine Monday, the day after learning beleaguered Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson would not return in 2009.
Williams, a senior safety and team captain, still has two games left in his SU career. That was enough incentive to show up at the Iocolano-Petty Football Wing for his typical, Monday morning workout.
‘I was surprised,’ Williams said. ‘I usually come and work out at 7 o’clock. I come back in at 11:30 and there was about 50 people working out, high-fiving each other, having a good time. They’re pumped up. They’re ready to play.’
Business as usual. That’s the mantra emanating from the members of the Syracuse football team as they prepare for a weekend visit to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame (6-4). A week later, the Orange will travel to Cincinnati for Robinson’s final game.
Based on the sentiments around the football wing Tuesday, the consensus among the Orange is that Robinson’s imminent departure won’t have any bearing on SU’s final two games.
‘They will play. There’s no question in my mind,’ Robinson said. ‘The whole key to play well is what they do today, tomorrow and Thursday in practice. It’s the preparation. I feel strongly this team will prepare. They have all season.
‘In every game, including the other day, I saw growth. What we gotta do is get back on track in all areas. I think they’ll be very focused.’
Recent history would indicate otherwise. Five other teams have made head coaching changes midseason this year: Clemson, Washington, Kansas State, Tennessee and Toledo. Of those schools, only Clemson – which parted ways with head coach Tommy Bowden Oct. 13 – has won a game since axing its coach. The five teams are a combined 2-10 since making their respective coaching moves. Each lost its first game after announcing a change.
Therein lies the challenge for Robinson. Keeping his team focused and motivated, even with his future decided and a pair of meaningless games on the horizon.
If finding inspiration is a problem for the Orange, the players aren’t letting on.
‘Of course people are going to talk about it a little bit, but in terms of affecting people, it didn’t seem like that to me,’ junior quarterback Cameron Dantley said. ‘There were the same amount of people in the weight room, same amount in here watching film. I don’t think hearing the information made them go ‘Hey, let’s pack it in for the season.”
That remains to be seen. It’s easy to see how a coaching change can be unsettling. Underclassmen now face the reality of playing out their Syracuse careers with a coach to whom they never chose to commit.
‘Certainly you’re thinking about it,’ sophomore center Jim McKenzie said. ‘You don’t know what’s going to happen.’Still, McKenzie was adamant the Orange has plenty to play for. Pride, for one. ‘I don’t think we’re a 2-10 football team,’ McKenzie said.
And of course, a win or two would give their head coach something to smile about as he enters the final two weeks of an otherwise gloomy four years.
‘To hear he’s going to be gone after the last two games, I think the players feel it’s best for him to leave on a good note,’ Dantley said. ‘We all want to do that for him because of what he’s done for the program and for us as individuals and players.’
Greg Robinson refused to speculate which of his struggling signal callers – Cameron Dantley or Andrew Robinson – will start against the Fighting Irish.
‘We’ll get to that as the week goes on,’ Robinson said. ‘I’m not going to spend time talking about that right now.’
Dantley started the last nine games, but has scuffled of late. He’s a combined 7-for-28 for 57 yards in the Orange’s last two contests. Robinson has come on in relief in both games but hasn’t looked much better. His first pass Saturday against Connecticut was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
‘They haven’t told us anything yet,’ Dantley said when asked if he would start. ‘I’m just preparing like it’s every other week.’
Bruce Williams said he wasn’t sure whether he’d be healthy enough to suit up against Notre Dame, thanks to a right quad injury.
‘It’ll be on the trainers to call it for me,’ Williams said. ‘I can run, I can move right now.’
Williams said he suffered the injury at Rutgers and re-aggravated it Saturday against the Huskies.
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