Ryan Nassib entered the Syracuse University football scene in March of 2009 when first-year head coach Doug Marrone named him, the red-shirt freshman from Malvern (Pa.) Prep School, the starting quarterback of one of the worst programs in college football.
The honor came in spring practice, where Nassib seemed to be better than Cameron Dantley, the starter at quarterback the year before who was moved to tight end, and David Legree. What we knew about Nassib was he impressed every body with his quick release, accuracy and overall skills. Unfortunately for Nassib, about two weeks later the eventual starting quarterback for the '09 season, Grag Paulus, committed to SU.
But, despite the setback, Nassib saw action in 10 games and was able to avoid being the scapegoat of SU's struggles during its 4-8 season. Entering the 2010-11 season, Nassib was the clear-cut No. 1 QB. As a starter for his first full season, the 6-foot-2 junior was solid, averaging 174.6 passing yards with 19 touchdowns, while helping the Orange to their best regular-season record (7-5) since '04 and a postseason appearance in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
About a month later, Nassib passed for 239 yards and three TDs in SU's first bowl victory, 36-34 over Kansas State, since '01. The performance catapulted No. 12 from serviceable QB to a possible star who can lead SU to its first BCS-bowl berth.
(Pinstripe Bowl Syracuse Flea Flicker Touchdown (via OrangePlatypus23))
What has emerged from Nasibb's first post-season performance is an aura of confidence, which seems to be oozing out of the senior during summer training camp.
"The poise and effectiveness displayed by Nassib are encouraging." wrote Syracuse Post-Standard's Dave Rahme on Saturday. "He is making all the throws and displaying great command of the offense. Most impressive to me yesterday was a strike he threw to Wales while on the run."
Marrone attributes Nassib's play to his knowledge of the offense and experience.
"When your quarterbacks have knowledge of the full system, then it is kind of like everyone else has to catch up," Marrone said. "You want your offense to catch up to your quarterback, not your quarterback catching up to your offense."
It's clear that Nassib has a handle on the playbook and command of the huddle, but what will be an issue for the right-handed QB is the lack of play makers on the roster.
Entering the season, SU was short on players who could stretch the field, and the options got slimmer when wide receiver Marcuse Sales was suspended just a week ago. Next to tight end Nick Provo, Sales was Nassib's biggest target. Now, No. 12 will be tossing to seniors Van Chew and Alec Lemon, and a bunch of unproven wide receivers.
Another issue for SU is: What happens to SU's offense if Nassib goes down with an injury? Currently, junior Charley Loeb is the backup quarterback. Last season, Loeb saw limited action, playing in five of SU's 13 games. During SU's spring game in mid-April, Loeb didn't light up the box score, but he was the clear-cut No. 2 QB as other backups Johnny Miller, who was just arrested for attempted robbery just a few weeks ago, and John Kindler struggled. (A few days later, Miller was suspended from the team.)
In conclusion, SU is very strong at the quarterback position with Nassib at the helm. However, that's a lot like saying the Indianapolis Colts are fine with Peyton Manning at quarterback, but if anything were happen to their No. 1 QB things get very shaky. SU fans just need to hope that Nassib's progression as QB takes another step and he stays healthy. If that doesn't happen, it could be another long, mediocre year for the Orange.