Syracuse football had a monumental collapse in 2011, but who stood out as the most important player? Though not a simple task, CuseNation.com tackles it with the final installment of the postseason awards.
Thomas, though suspended for the final two games of the season as well as most of next season, was a spark for an often-battered secondary. He led the team with six interceptions and tackles in tackles – finishing with 82. Thomas also notched 4 ½ tackles for loss, and often was the best player on the field for the Orange.
Lemon had some midseason lulls, but he exploded for the Orange down the stretch on the way to an impressive season. He had 30 catches over the last four games on the way to nearly 500 yards and three scores. Lemon's 68 catches are a single-season record and his 834 yards on the year was among the 10 best campaigns in school history. The junior was the team's best route-runner and most sure-handed target along with Nick Provo.
Bailey was the workhorse that the recent SU teams have seemed to need each year. He became the third straight starting running back to notch 1,000 yards in a season, and he added 200 yards and a score through the air as well. But his impact in the offense was bigger than stats. Bailey was a solid blocker when the opposing team blitzed, and he secured the ball more times than not with the exception of the Rutgers game.
Nassib – like many Syracuse players – had an up-and-down season. He electrified with big games against West Virginia and Wake Forest at home, but struggled against Connecticut and Pittsburgh down the stretch. Nassib had three games of at least three touchdown passes, and he finished fourth in the Big East in both pass efficiency and total offense. The redshirt junior showed supreme toughness game after game, and he amassed 22 touchdowns against just nine interceptions on the way to the school record for yards in a season (2,685) and completions (259).
Winner: Ryan Nassib
Let the debate begin.
Despite dealing with the most pressure this season after some lulls and occasional late-game blunders – Nassib was the 2011 MVP. Consider what the team would look like without him back there bouncing back from every big hit he endured throughout the campaign. Nassib delivered more times than not as a passer, and his running ability continues to be overlooked by the majority of people who follow Orange football. Still, the signal-caller was one of the few offensive constants on an inconsistent team, likely responsible for half of the teams wins. Had another quarterback been asked to do the same all season, and SU may have had a record similar to some of the Greg Robinson-guided units.