The Syrcause offense is built around fifth year senior Ryan Nassib, who just may be the best quarterback in the Big East. Nassib had a big day for the Orange in their season opening loss to Northwestern, throwing for 470 yards and four touchdowns.
Nassib is quite the gamer for Syracuse, as the quarterback has led the Orange to seven wins when either tied or trailing in the fourth quarter, including four last season, with two coming in overtime. He seems to thrive in close games, and would have made it eight comebacks on Saturday, if it wasn’t for Northwestern’s game-winning touchdown pass with just 44 seconds left.
With the game seemingly lost, down 35-13 late in the third quarter, Nassib brought Syracuse back with four touchdown passes in 15 minutes.
For the game, Syracuse really showed a propensity to favor the passing game, though a big part of that decision was falling down 22 points to Northwestern. Offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett’s play calling saw the Orange throw the ball 65 times in 95 plays, which is a wide margin for a pro-style offense.
Nassib has talent at receiver, including Alec Lemon, who returns after catching 68 passes a year ago. Lemon missed the Northwestern game due to an injury, and redshirt senior Marcus Sales excelled at flanker, hauling in 11 of Nassib’s balls thrown his way.
At tight end, the Orange lost Nick Provo to graduation, who was a big loss, considering how well he played against USC at the Coliseum last year. Beckett Wales takes over, and though he caught just three catches in all of 2011, he had six receptions against Northwestern and looks to fill Provo’s record-setting shoes.
Unlike Hawaii, the offensive line is a strength for Syracuse. Senior left tackle Justin Pugh will sit out the USC game with an upper body injury, but the line is anchored by Macky MacPhearson, who is listed on the 2012 Rimington Trophy Fall Watch List for the nation’s best center. As a line, Syracuse allowed just one sack against Northwestern, and should improve from being 81st in the nation in sacks allowed a year ago.
The Orange running game was one of the worst in the nation in 2011, ranked 95th nationally. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley are two juniors who will carry the load for Syracuse, and in the season opener, they combined for 84 yards on 17 carries. Smith, 6-foot 226 pounds, is the downhill runner, while Gully is more of an all-purpose back. Look for the two backs to split carries as they’ll be used to compliment’s Syracuse’s stellar passing game.
Syracuse’s offense offers an interesting test for the Trojans, as they’ll take experience into the Meadowlands, despite returning just a handful of starters on offense. Ryan Nassib could be the best quarterback USC will face in the first half of the season, and Syracuse’s use of the pro-set offense featuring heavy use of tight ends offers a solid preview of Stanford’s offense, which is next on the docket for the Trojans.
Projected Starters vs. USC:
WR Alec Lemon #15
LT Sean Hickey #60
LG Zack Chibane #75
C Macky MacPherson #59
RG Ivan Foy #72
RT Lou Alexander #77
TE Beckett Wales #85
WR Marcus Sales #5
QB Ryan Nassib #12
HB Jerome Smith #45
FB Clay Cleveland #31