By BBD Editor Anthony D. Macari
The season was only hours old when you knew this could be a special year for the man behind center for the Orange. After falling behind 35-13 midway through the third quarter, Ryan Nassib orchestrated a comeback that would foretell the stretch run the Orange are currently riding. Nassib threw 4 TD passes on consecutive drives to take a 41-35 lead with 2:40 left.
Unfortunately for the Orange, they couldn’t hold on and gave up the winning TD with 44 seconds left. Nassib finished the day with a school record 45 completions for 482 yards. More importantly than the impressive stats were the senior leadership he exhibited to rally his team back. Nassib showed a true command of the Orange’s new up tempo, no huddle attack in the game and has come to master it especially when falling behind late in games.
The following week again resulted in a Syracuse loss at the hands of at the time #2 ranked USC at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands. Matt Barkley’s 6 TD passes rightly grabbed the headlines, but sitting in the stadium that day I came away with a sense there were two potential NFL starters on the field that day and it was Nassib who showed the stronger arm. Nassib’s passing kept the game close late into the second half, but Syracuse’s defense had no answer for USC receiver’s Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. One could only wonder what kind of production Nassib would have if he were surrounded with the talent Barkley is blessed with at USC.
Syracuse continued to struggle with losses against Minnesota and Rutgers. Those early season games, Nassib racked up decent yardage, but far too often was turning the ball over. The knock on Nassib coming into this season, and evident in the early season losses, was his inability to handle pressure in the pocket. Rushed throws often landed badly off target or in the wrong hands. The remarkable thing to see as this season progresses is the growth Nassib has shown while under pressure. Nassib has some athleticism but if he is to survive at the next level it will be because of his ability to quickly read defenses and using his lightning quick release to get the ball out of his hand when under pressure.
The maturation and confidence of Nassib has been on full display down the stretch. A key turning point to the season was against South Florida. Trailing by 20 at the half, Nassib led the Orange on five 2nd half touchdown drives, including the game winner to Alec Lemon with: 03 seconds left. That confidence carried over to help produce upset wins over previously undefeated Louisville and on the road against Missouri.
Nassib’s performances in those games have turned the heads of scouts around the country. While the pre-season consensus top senior QB prospects like Barkley, Geno Smith, and Tyler Wilson have seen their stocks decline as the season winds down, Nassib is clearly on the rise. Among the top senior prospects, Nassib has the cleanest technique, quickest release and arm strength on par with Wilson behind only Smith. The level of competition in the Big East is not on par with the other major conferences but Syracuse has taken on an aggressive non-conference schedule and Nassib has shown consistency no matter the level of competition. In fact his passer rating of 143.6 vs. AP ranked teams this season is right at his 145.4 rating overall.
Going into this season, as a Syracuse alum, I was skeptical about Nassib’s potential as a legit future NFL franchise QB. However, his consistent improvement and clutch play down the stretch has me now believing he may actually be a better pro than college player. He has played in multiple pro-style offenses for Coach Doug Marrone and has a very high football IQ. He does a great job making pre-snap reads and works efficiently through his progressions. He is getting the ball out of his hand quicker and more accurately this season. He has truly taken to the up tempo read option offense Syracuse is currently using but he has experience under center in more traditional pro-style attacks.
Most importantly, he has shown the kind of leadership and poise under pressure needed at the next level. This was never more evident than late in the game against Missouri. Nassib stepped up in the pocket and fired a laser in to his tight end, Beckett Wales, but the ball bounced off his hand and floated in the air for an easy pick. Nassib responded with words of encouragement to Wales and a remarkable game winning drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Alec Lemon with 20 seconds left on the clock.
At 6-2 228 lbs, he has good size for the position and his over the top delivery helps him even more. A strong finish against Temple and in whatever bowl game the Orange end up in, likely a return to the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium, would add to what is now an impressive college resume.
Nassib has six 300+ yard games this season with a total of over 3,400 yards through 11 games. He’s thrown 23 TD passes vs 9 interceptions, with the majority of picks coming earlier in the season. The last minute winning drive against Missouri was his 9th career game winning drive. Nassib is one of those rare QBs who seems to get better when the game is on the line which is backed by some of his splits. His passer rating rises from 123.3 in the first half of games to 162.7 in the 2nd half of games. Showing that he clearly has the poise under pressure you covet at the position.
Coming in to the season I had a 4th – 5th round grade on him, but he now I believe he is a high 2nd round prospect. With a strong finish and post season, It would not surprise me to see him sneak into the first round.
As for fit with the Bills, I could definitely see him picking up Gailey’s complex system quickly and running it efficiently. Coming from Pennsylvania and going to school up in Syracuse, I doubt Nassib will be intimidated by the cold. The Bills will also have a slight scouting advantage given Syracuse is considered a local school. I know marketing shouldn’t be factored in, but often is so having a QB to help draw fans east of Rochester couldn’t hurt either. Landing a LB like Manti Te’o in the 1st and then coming back and landing Nassib in the 2nd right now seems like a dream scenario.