By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — The smile on his face is infectious, beaming wide under the bill of the dark Syracuse hat tugged tight over his eyebrows. Ryan Nassib can’t contain himself, because over these next few days, possibly Thursday night, the former Malvern Prep and Orangemen star knows his life is going to change drastically.
Nassib, the brilliant 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback from West Chester, could go as high as the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft, to the Buffalo Bills and his former Syracuse coach, Doug Marrone, or possibly early in the second round.
Either way, Nassib is in the mix among this year’s top quarterbacks, with West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, expected to be chosen early.
Nassib is coming off the most prolific offensive season any Syracuse quarterback ever had, including former Eagle Donovan McNabb.
Nassib was the eye of an offense that set Syracuse school records for total offense (6,188 yards), total offense per game (476.0), and most plays (1,028), passing yards (3,757), completions (295), passing yards per game (289.0) and touchdown passes (26).
He concluded his college career with individual school standards for total passing yards (9,060), pass completions (780), and passing yards per game (201.3).
Nassib mastered a New Orleans Saints style no-huddle offense, with some read-option spliced in. But beyond the numbers, Nassib displayed great poise, leading the Orange to two late fourth-quarter comeback victories over Missouri and South Florida.
That moxie, those numbers, have Nassib being targeted by Buffalo, Jacksonville, the New York Jets, Cleveland and Arizona. Some respected draft prognosticators have Nassib going eighth overall to the Bills, others have him slipping early in the second round, where again, Marrone grabs Nassib with the 41st overall pick. Or, Nassib could go to the Jets with the ninth overall pick, working under new Jets’ offensive coordinator and former Eagles’ offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“I think I’m doing a pretty good job of staying calm,” admitted Nassib, who graduated Syracuse with a dual degree in finance and accounting. “The [process] has been a little nerve wracking, but at the end of the day, I just hope I wind up with a team that I’m a good fit for.
“It doesn’t matter when I go, I think it matters more where I go, and that’s to a team that has an offense that I have a good feel for with guys around me that can help me and I can work with them. One of my biggest strengths I bring is that I can adapt and learn. I think I’ll be able to fit with a lot of teams.”
Someone who was highly instrumental in helping Nassib post those numbers his senior year is Justin Pugh, a former Council Rock South lineman who is also projected to go in the first two rounds at left offensive tackle.
Pugh and Nassib played together the last three years and together they saw their status rise with NFL teams.
“What makes Ryan so good is he has that X-factor; I knew if we gave him time, Ryan was going to make a play,” said Pugh, a first-team Big East selection. “I saw him gain confidence throughout his career and he had the best year of any Syracuse quarterback ever. Ryan was the first prototypical quarterback at Syracuse that beat you with his arm. The other thing teams have to look at is Ryan had a great command of the huddle. In other games I played, there were quarterbacks that came into the huddle and they didn’t have that coolness and calmness that Ryan had. I’ve been in huddles with other quarterbacks before, and you just know Ryan is going to get the job done.”
For now, the two Syracuse Orangemen with the local ties will be staying home with their families Thursday night, hearing the names called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. There is a chance, a good chance, they’ll both get called in the first round.
“Ever since I picked up a football, I dreamed about this time, imaging myself playing for the Eagles growing up as a kid,” Nassib said. “It’s been a crazy and fun ride, and I’m ready to take the next stage of my life.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing football blogger for CBS Philly.