Before we dive in to full Syracuse offense mode, I wanted to share Fitz’s post-practice interview with PurpleWildcats.com’s Chris Emma. You can just see and hear a different tone this year from Fitz. He’s turned the dial from borderline defiant to a more humble, modest tone. You aslo get the sense that he truly believes the chemistry is better than its been in several years. Take a look and listen:
Also of note from various reports (Scout, Rivals etc..) from yesterday’s practice was the fact Colter is looking brilliant passing downfield and that Demetrius Fields is really stepping up his game. The other subtlety I’ve picked up from Fitz interviews is his sense of season-long build approach. He’s admitted that the team was more of a sprint from day one and lost momentum late in the season. He’s taken that to game week as well and is clearly trying to manage the peak to be at kickoff on Saturday.
I’ve been making the rounds with Syracuse-related media and bloggers and in our circles it is quid pro quo to get interview reciprocity. So, I’ve really wanted to get insights from the inside on Syracuse fifth year QB, Ryan Nassib, who returns two very good WRs, but seemingly has more questions on the line and at RB than we do. Kevin Weinheimer, editor of Inside The Loud House runs an impressive Syracuse site and after agreeing to an interview with him last week, he was kind enough to indulge us on all things Ryan Nassib. He even took it to another level writing his perspective on just how much of the season relies on Nassib in Orange Nation. The descriptions I’ve read about Nassib may sound familiar to ‘Cats fans – speculation about making the downfield throw. Let’s find out more about the potential alltime passing leader in ‘Cuse history.
LTP: QB Ryan Nassib is obviously a veteran and solid passer who should contend for 1st team All Big East honors this season. It’s also clear he’s not exactly a dual threat guy. Yet, I’m reading on the SU blogs that Marrone has been promising a lot more misdirection and even hurry-up offensse with some different potential sets this season. Is this to disguise the inexperienced running game or is it a designed way to get uber-frosh Ashton Broyld on the field?
KW: I think it is a little bit of both. While Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley, and Adonis Ameen-Moore each have different skill sets, it is pretty clear that this team is going to go as far as Ryan Nassib takes them. Ashton Broyld is listed as a RB on the roster, but he is really a hybrid guy that will be all over the field in the fall. In terms of the Syracuse offense, Marrone kept all spring and summer practices closed, so your guess is as good as mine on what to expect. Marrone has said this off season that he wants Nassib to tuck it and run more this season, and although he isn’t a speed demon, he is still pretty mobile and has the football IQ to make sound decisions.
I can’t tell you how excited Syracuse fans are to see Broyld in action, it has been a long time coming to get him in an Orange uniform following some troubles he ran in to in high school, but now that he is here he has the most hype for a player coming in to a season in recent memory. Look for a lot of screens to go his way to get him the ball in the open field.
LTP: Break down Nassib’s targets – Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales – for us. What are their respective strengths and weaknesses? Based on NU’s secondary issues last year and a ton of inexperience this year, how much do you expect the playcalling to be lopsided pass first, at least early on in this game?
KW: I think that the play calling will be lopsided pass first all game, and a vast majority of the season. Marrone’s offense was about short passing and long drives last season, and I think we can expect more of the same this year as well. Couple that with a young secondary from Northwestern, and I believe Nassib will absolutely look to make a statement week one in the Dome.
The receiving core is another component that I am really excited to see this season. Alec Lemon has had a great career, and despite some injury trouble in the past he seems primed and ready to go as the #1 go to receiver for Nassib. Sales on the other hand, is a giant mystery for Orange fans, as we never know what we are going to get from him. He had some off the field issues that kept him off the team last season, which was a year that was supposed to be his breakout season following a 3 TD performance in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2010. Reports are that Sales hasn’t exactly dominated, but that is nothing new to Orange fans. The year he dominated the Pinstripe Bowl, he wasn’t even on the depth chart beginning the season. He can absolutely be great, but we won’t know until we see him on the field.
I think an unknown to look out for is WR Jeremiah Kobena. Kobena is a 6’0, 182 lb sophomore who has speed. I think this will be his breakout season, and will eventually be a primary target for Nassib.
LTP: Back to Nassib. He’s a 5th year senior and has improved dramatically each season. Break down his strengths and weaknesses as specifically as you can.
KW: Nassib is a guy with tremendous leadership qualities who improves his game every season. His completion percentage ranks 3rd in Syracuse history, improving from 52% his sophomore season, 56.4% his junior season, and a staggering 62.4% last season (ed note: Kevin, you want staggering, consider NU QBs – Dan Persa set the NCAA record for completion percentage and fans lack confidence in Colter’s passing despite the fact he threw a pedestrian 66% cmp last year!). With 44 touchdown passes, he is on track to easily pass Syracuse legends Don McPherson and Marvin Graves on the career touchdown list. Statistically speaking, he is among some of the best quarterbacks in Syracuse history, and has kept himself off of the top ten interception leaders list which also includes names like Graves, McPherson, and Donovan McNabb.
A weakness that fans point to are his inability to throw a deep ball. Nassib constantly checks down on his reads, and loves throwing slants over the middle and balls in to the flat. However, I think that is partially because he never really had any deep threats to work with. Mike Williams who is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was about his only deep threat in his time of quarterbacking, and coincidentally enough that was the season Syracuse fans saw the most shots down field from him. I believe that in the opener Saturday we will see more shots down field from Nassib than we’ve seen in the past simply because the personnel is there.
LTP: And, NU fans sigh. Give us a sample of the highs (presumably WVU in ’11) and the lows of Nassib from last year. What do you expect to be different this season?
KW: You hit the nail on the head. The high was absolutely WVU last season, where Nassib could do no wrong. He was more confident in that game than we have ever seen him in his career. The meltdown for the rest of the season however, was a different story. Nassib had all the right answers through that tailspin, but it seemed apparent that something was haywire in the locker room down that stretch. Nassib had little blocking, which results in a lack of the confidence that I mentioned. I think the lows were definitely the result of a team meltdown rather than just Nassib, and I think that Marrone has taken a lot of steps to try to correct that. The team headed out to Fort Drumm for practices, which definitely helps with team chemistry as Wildcat fans are aware with Northwestern working out with the Seals.
I think that this season will be different because of coaching adjustments and a fresh start. Once this team starts to hit adversity though, we will really see if the proper adjustments have been made.
LTP: Clearly the OL is an issue for Syracuse, in part b/c of injuries. How do you expect this to impact playcalling?
KW: The OL has never been a huge strength for the team in recent years. This resulted in quick passing and running on short yardage situations. Going back to the West Virginia game last season, the athletes on the West Virginia defense were way too fast for the Orange to run outside, so they were forced to run inside constantly for short yardage to try to pound the ball. There were three touchdown passes to then tight end Nick Provo in that game, as well as fast square ins and slants for long, time consuming drives. I think there will be more of the same this season, only with more shots further down field.
LTP: It’s 3rd and 6 with the game on the line. What’s Nassib’s go-to play?
KW: This is one of my favorite aspects of Ryan Nassib. He is a dual major in the school of business for finance and accounting, so the kid is smart. Last season it would be a short route for Nick Provo, but that was due to Provo’s great hands and ability to make plays. 3rd down and 6, I think Nassib reads the play and has the ability to audible based on any coverage thrown at him. If I had to guess though, I would say some kind of slant with a little play action thrown in there.
LTP: What’s your take on the SU run game? Do you foresee a point in this game when you abandon it and go nearly all pass?
KW: Unfortunately, I do. Gulley is the speed guy, with Ameen-Moore and Smith as the power backs. Like I said above, Broyld is listed as a RB, but I believe he will be thrown out there all over the field if the spring game was any indication. If they don’t find any kind of success early on, look for short passing to replace first down runs and for the Orange to get down the field that way.
LTP: Let’s chat about the intangibles. Which ones does Ryan possess and which does he lack?
KW: Leadership is absolutely an accurate way to describe Ryan Nassib. He is all about winning, and he doesn’t care how they get there. One that I would say he lacks if I were to nit pick would be his composure. But when I say composure, I mean it in as positive of a way that it can be. Nassib had times last season that he would miss open receivers simply because he would get excited when he saw them open and would overthrow them. I wouldn’t say he gets rattled, but rather he can get excited if he sees something good with the play developing. I am looking forward to seeing a great season from him, and I believe that he will do big things for the team this season.
LTP: Thanks Kevin! Great stuff. Now that i’ve instilled even more intrepidation, i’m a borderline train wreck heading in to this game. Here’s to hoping he’s got some rust in game one.
Another ‘Cuse Injury
The Orange have seen the injury list grow all too much in recent weeks. The latest casualty is freshman FB, Myles Davis. Doug Marrone and SU announced he suffered a lower body injury and will be out for the entire 2012 season. You can learn more about it from our friends at TroyNunesIsAnAbsoluteMagician here.
LTP Purple Challenge
OK, the morphine is finally wearing off and I thought I might be in la la land because the NEW season ticket purchases have slowed to a crawl after averaging 5 per day last week. Please, don’t send flowers, buy NEW season tickets or use the fact that this deranged fan is so fired up about the ‘Cats home schedule that you’re trying to shut me up. Whatever it takes! Remember, Vandy @ night, BC late afternoon and the only way to see the soldout Nebraska game is to buy season tickets (Iowa likely as well). Plus, show them the 2013 and 2014 schedules and tell them to get in while they can. Email us at email@example.com and we’ll give you a shoutout – as soon as the morphine subsides.
NEW! LTP EXCHANGE
Many of you may have missed the launch of LTP’s very own version of Craig’s List this past Friday. The message board is designed for you, the NU fan, to unload tickets to fellow Wildcats or put in requests for things, like parking passes, that fellow readers may have. There are two ways to connect to this. First, there is a home page widget below the 2012 season calendar in the right sidebar. Second, there is a navigation tab along the top of this page called, wisely, LTP EXCHANGE. Also, be sure to read the thorough FAQs which should cover all of the caveats, what ifs and other “I need help” thoughts you have. As always, give us your feedback. Be sure to check it out as there have been over 250 views of the board and double-digit things posted already.
LTP Flag Project
Yes, it’s still alive and well. Thanks to Bernard M. for taking the time at this unique locale – the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky, Hopefully it isn’t a sign of what we’ll need to get through Saturday! Send us your photos with the Northwestern flag and we’ll add it to our interactive LTP Flag map.