While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.
We’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
For the first half of 2011, Ryan Nassib‘s ascent as the focal point of the Syracuse offense was an enormous factor in the team’s hot start. The then-junior was one of the country’s most accurate passers, and showed huge strides in adjusting the SU passing game to life without projected top target Marcus Sales. And even though his numbers for the season still stood impressive against the backdrop of the rest of his career, the season’s second half left plenty to be desired.
With question marks around the Orange running game for 2012, Nassib will be called upon to deliver his best performance yet. With Sales back, and a nice, experienced group of receivers at his disposal, Nassib will have the freedom to air it out more so than last year. We’ve seen plenty of this, starting with the team’s impressive 2010 Pinstripe Bowl performance, but there’s plenty more the team can do to take advantage of Nassib’s strong arm and big receivers. Given the team’s extremely difficult schedule, it’ll take a new level of creativity on offense to hit the six-win plateau.
In order to be more creative though, SU needs more consistency from its quarterback. After putting together four-straight impressive efforts to start the season (totals: 71 percent completions, 939 yards, nine TDs, one INT), he spent much of the rest of the season vacillating between underwhelming (the Rutgers game) and average, with an excellent game (WEST VIRGINIA!) thrown in for good measure, too. Ten of Nassib’s 22 TD passes came in just three games. Just two games sniffed 300 yards passing. And he threw five picks in the last four games of the year — including the season-ending gaffe against Pittsburgh. This is not to discredit Nassib, however. Throughout his time at Syracuse, he’s proven himself to be a mature leader, fully capable of guiding this team to success. Now, he just needs to prove he can be that player for the length of a full season. As the face of the Doug Marrone era for outside commentators, it’s become the only acceptable outcome.
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