With the team getting some well-deserved time off after finishing on a 3-0 run to a 7-5 overall record, John Garcia, Jr., Mike McAllister, and Dan Tortora take a look at the offense. Each member of the CuseNation.com staff has taken the time they need to sift through the offense as each provides their Syracuse Orange football Offensive Player of the Year.
John Garcia, Jr.: Ryan Nassib
This one was easy. Alec Lemon was a star late in the season just as Marcus Sales was in the first half and Jerome Smith proved he could carry the rushing load behind some notable offensive lineman, but the table-setter in Nassib was the constant all season. By the numbers, he scorched most of Syracuse's storied passing records and he limited turnovers for the most part despite playing in an offense designed to churn out more plays than most. That transition to the up-tempo scheme put more pressure on Nassib to be efficient and productive on every play, and he was up to the challenge. There's not one player more directly associated with the Orange's 2012 season than Nassib, and it speaks to his ability to assimilate to a speedy scheme seemingly flawlessly. His decision-making was flawless more times than not and his delivery and accuracy were just as steady this fall.
Lemon and Smith were described above. As far as Hickey and Chibane, Hickey's versatility stabilized the line during their mid-season awakening and Chibane, put simply, was consistent all season long.
Mike McAllister: Ryan Nassib
It has to be Ryan Nassib. The evolution of his game has brought this offense to another level. He has set nearly every record in the Syracuse passing books, and has been a steady leader all season. His game winning drives against South Florida and Missouri cemented this choice for me.
Honorable mention: Justin Pugh
Since Pugh's return against Pittsburgh, the Orange have gone 6-2, averaged 35.8 points over the last six games. He's been dominant at the left tackle spot.
Dan Tortora: Ryan Nassib
Ryan Nassib is the best quarterback to wear orange and blue since Donovan McNabb. His play has brought hope to a team heightened by the past but burdened by their recent struggles. Nassib has helped to change the atmosphere around Syracuse' program. He can throw in the pocket, on the move, down the field, to the outside, over the middle. Name a throw and chances are, Nassib can make it. So many players have earned recognition this season on the Orange offense, but nothing goes without your general. His decision-making, the majority of the time, shows his knowledge of the game and ability to ad-lib. He has gotten consistently better from season to season and is playing his best football in his final moments in orange and blue. How many quarterbacks can tell you where they are going and continue to beat you despite you knowing his target? Nassib can, and he did against Missouri. Add in his ability to run, which goes unnoticed, and you have a piece of Syracuse history we should not be too naive to overlook. But, if you do, look toward the top of every statistical category.
Honorable mention: Alec Lemon, the entire backfield, and the offensive line
If not for Lemon's play in the road game against Missouri, we would be talking about the 6-6 Orange. Nassib continuously targeted Lemon, and he did not disappoint, converting the 4th-and-10 attempt, followed by the catch that would secure the touchdown that separated Syracuse from Missouri. Oh, and Lemon will be advancing from the Orange with the most receptions in Syracuse football history.
This season, he topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his collegiate career, becoming the first Orange receiver to achieve such a feat since Marvin Harrison did it back in the 1990s, and his coach, Rob Moore, did before that.
It would be hard to pick one back as offensive player of the year, but as a unit, they have risen to give the Orange one of the most talented, dominating rushing attacks they have seen in years. The only better news is that we can all see them again next season if Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley decide to stay.
Without an offensive line like Syracuse has had this season, the backfield would not be considered as candidates. Veteran leadership as well as the emergence of Sean Hickey has given Nassib the best protection he has had of his collegiate career as well as opened up holes for the backs to move the offense through.