BBD Editor Anthony D. Macari
Two former Big East rivals match up in what promises to be a high scoring affair in Yankee Stadium on Saturday. The game features exciting offensive playmakers on both sides and a marquee matchup of two of the higher regarded QB prospects for the upcoming draft. West Virginia QB Geno Smith has a chance to be the number 1 pick in the draft come April and Ryan Nassib is a hot name in scouting circles right now and with a solid pre-draft campaign could sneak into the 1st round himself. This one may burn up the score board with the over/under currently set at 80 points due as much to the talent on both teams offenses as the lack of talent on the other side of the ball. Look for Nassib and the Orange to pull out a last minute victory.
QB Ryan Nassib, #12, 6’02, 211
Nassib is a 3 year starter who saved some of his best performances down the stretch this season. He led multiple late game comeback victories this season and has become a cool in the clutch leader on the field. He has near flawless mechanics which include a nice over the top delivery and a lightning quick release. He can really spin the football and has no problem making accurate throws to every level. He’ll thread the needle in tight windows. His greatest flaw is a lack of touch on underneath passes which can lead to some deflections off his receiver’s hands or chest. He also sometimes trusts his arm too much and will force a pass instead of throwing it away or tuck it down and running. That being said, Nassib is an ascending prospect in a QB class filled with question marks. Nassib seems to have turned enough heads in the scouting community to create a buzz as proven by his selection as a 1st team all American by Pro Football Weekly. This game is a big opportunity for Nassib to continue his momentum.
WR Alec Lemon, #15, 6’2, 205
Alec Lemon saw his stock rise down the stretch along with Nassib. Whenever the Orange needed a big play, Nassib was able to find Lemon, none bigger than the game winning TD in the final moments against Missouri. While Lemon lacks eye popping straight line speed he has the ability to separate out of his breaks, runs crisp patterns and does an excellent job reading defenses to get open. His experience in a pro-style offense will help him make a smooth transition to the next level. He has good size but will need to add some bulk. He does a nice job attacking the ball in the air and has soft hands. Lemon could be a sleeper that finds his way on an NFL roster and carves out a role for himself sooner rather than later.
SS Shamarko Thomas, #21, 5’10, 206
While most of the focus in this match-up will be on the offensive side of the ball, Syracuse does have an impact player on the other side. Thomas is a heat seeking missile who loves to make the big hit and will willing come up into the box to offer run support. He plays the game with a reckless abandon, which leads to big plays both ways. With a more disciplined approach he could be an impact player at the next level, but he will likely need to start out as a situational player who comes off the field in obvious passing situations early. He really only fits in an attacking scheme that asks their SS’s to play like an extra LB.
WR Marcus Sales, #5, 6’0, 195
Sales flashes explosive but inconsistent play making ability. He’ll make the spectacular athletic catch one minute and drop one right in his hands the next. He was outperformed down the stretch by Lemon but seemed to put most of the immaturity exhibited in the past that led to suspensions and arrests. He needs a solid bowl game and post season to hear his name called during the draft.
QB Charley Loeb,#17, 6’-4” 212
OT Justin Pugh, #67 6′-5″ 297
DE Brandon Sharpe, #91, 6’-2’ 245
West Virginia Mountaineers
QB Geno Smith, #12, 6’3, 213
Partly by default, but Geno Smith is likely sitting on top of most boards right now at QB. His elite arm strength and athletic ability will have teams dreaming of RGIII, but the reality is Smith is a far cry from being as NFL ready as Griffin was a year ago. That being said, he has enough natural ability to entice a QB desperate team like the Chiefs to roll the dice and take him as high as #1 overall. Smith will likely light things up against a questionable Orange pass defense and should help solidify his position as the top QB in the draft. Smith really struggled with his accuracy down the stretch and it will be interesting to see if he can put it all together in Yankee stadium.
WR Tavon Austin, #1, 5’9” 172
At the center of West Virginia’s attack is the lightning quick Austin. The versatile but undersized receiver will line up in the slot, out wide and even in the backfield for the Mountaineers. He’ll also be used at punt returner and kick returner. The all purpose back with sub 4.4 speed produced over 2,700 all purpose yards. His lack of size could keep him out of the 1st round, but speed and versatility like his will get him selected no later than round 2. Look for ‘Cuse to struggle mightily to keep up with him.
WR Stedman Bailey, #3, 5’10 195
It would be difficult enough to defend against one lightning quick waterbug receiver, but WV has two. Bailey will likely not have to wait long to hear his name called shortly after Austin draft weekend. Bailey has announced he will declare as a junior and was projected to be taken in the 3rd round by the NFL evaluation committee. Bailey isn’t as fast as Austin, but it’s not by much. Look for the pair to be seen running up and down the field.
K Tyler Bitancurt, #40, 6’-1” 203
C Joe Madsen #74, 6’4 305
OG Josh Jenkins #77, 6’4” 303
RB Shawne Alston #20, 5’11” 236
OG Jeff Braun #57, 6’5” 316
FB Ryan Clarke #32, 6’-0” 226
OLB Terence Garvin #28 6’3” 222
OLB Josh Francis #4 6’3” 222
Game Prediction: Syracuse 44 – West Virginia 42