If Syracuse plans on taking the next step as a football program, quarterback Ryan Nassib must lead the way and take a step forward after putting up pedestrian numbers last year. The Orange took great strides in Year Two of The Dougie, going 8-5 and the dramatic 36-34 victory over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl. But SU will need its quarterback to grow up quickly. Nassib was under center for all eight of those victories, but posted mediocre numbers for most of the year.
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In the regular season, Nassib completed 56% of his passes for 2,296 yards, and 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions (five of those scores came against Maine). The Orange reached 7 wins and bowl eligibility mostly on the strength of its defense and a thousand-yard rushing season from Delone Carter. Nassib adequately filled his role as a “game manager.”
With Carter, and several key members of the defense gone, Nassib will have to be a bigger part of the offense if Syracuse is to take another step forward. The Orange won road Big East games at USF, West Virginia, and Cincinnati despite less than 150 yards passing. In fact, Nassib completed just five passes in SU’s upset over the Mountaineers in Morgantown. It’s risky to think the ’11 edition of the Orange will do the same.
Syracuse needs its quarterback to be more of a playmaker than a game manager, just as he was in SU’s thrilling victory in the Bronx. In awful passing conditions on that frigid December evening, Nassib connected on touchdowns of 52, 44, and 36 yards. The offense has shown some flashes of that big play ability so far this spring.
While a stable of largely unproven backs will try to replace Carter’s production, most of Nassib’s weapons in the passing game return. Syracuse brings back its top five receivers from last year in Van Chew, Marcus Sales, and Alec Lemon, tight end Nick Provo, and tailback Antwon Bailey. Jarrod West will be returning from injury after missing his freshman season, and the incoming recruiting class will be added to the fold, giving Nassib a variety of weapons at his disposal.
Nassib will need to exploit that arsenal to lead a more productive passing game. He was seventh of eight starting quarterbacks in the Big East last year with just 6.5 yards per attempt last season. With questions surrounding the running game and defense, the Orange can’t afford to be quite as conservative through the air this season. Saturday’s Spring Game will be Nassib’s first chance since the Pinstripe Bowl to prove that he can do that.
Nassib was just good enough to lead the Orange to a winning season and bowl victory in his first full season under center. This year he’ll need to do more. He can take the first step this weekend.
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Posted: Steve Neikam