ACC Football Chat: Discussing Non-Conference Rivals and the Evolving Recruiting Landscape

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Rivalry Past 2013

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Gridiron Rivalry Past 2013

Earlier in the week, our own Hokie Mark started up a conversation surrounding three- and four-way rivalries over on SB Nation’s Every Day Should Be Saturday. The basics: there are several three-way rivalries being played out this season, and some of them are going away for a long time after that. Some due to disinterest, others due to scheduling. But what Mark was getting at was the unique setup for three- and four-way rivalries, and which are some of the most- and least-heralded in the country.

Of course, this turned into a jumping-off point for an email conversation between he and I, which I’ve compiled below for everyone. While the main topic focused on non-conference rivals, we also branched out into what’s become an increasingly year-round discussion for everyone: recruiting. Check it out:

Mark: Hello again, John! Only 100 days until the football season begins — a very special one for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to be sure. For the Orange, the season essentially begins and ends with old rivals: Penn State and Boston College. How do you feel about renewing those rivalries, and are there other rivalries for ‘Cuse that you’d like to see reawakened?

John: I’m about as excited as you can get, considering we’re still about 100 days out. Rekindling the rivalry with Boston College has been one of my favorite aspects of the ACC move, since it easily addresses our crisis of football identity (though much of the media doesn’t think so). Penn State, while arguably our oldest and most storied rival, hasn’t filled that role in over 20 years. It’s nice to play them when we can, but I think most fans have kind of moved on from the Nittany Lions — especially those of us who aren’t old enough to remember when SU and PSU were rivals to begin with.

As far as other rivalries worth rekindling, only two come to mind, and one’s not necessarily a “rivalry” at all. West Virginia‘s always been among our most-hated opponents, and with Syracuse beating the Mountaineers the last three times out (including last December’s Pinstripe Bowl), it’s only created a more hostile tension between the two fan bases. I was at the game in December, and ‘Neers fans were not what you would call “friendly” toward the Orange contingent, by any means. The other aforementioned opponent was Virginia Tech. While never traditionally considered one of Syracuse’s rivals, the Hokies and SU played plenty of heated games toward the latter years of the original Big East football conference that are worth rehashing. Of course, the ACC’s divisional setup won’t do much to help us play Tech more often, so that one’s also kind of off the table.

What about you, from a VaTech perspective? Any rivalries you’d like to start back up — feasible or not? Have any ill will left toward Syracuse from the Big East days?

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NFL Draft 2013: Florida State’s EJ Manuel Picked 16th Overall by Buffalo Bills

EJ Manuel's a First-Round Selection, Picked By the Buffalo Bills to be Their Next QB

EJ Manuel’s a First-Round Selection, Picked By the Buffalo Bills to be Their Next QB

And in a surprise move, the second ACC player is off the board, though not the one we originally thought it would be. The Buffalo Bills, obviously looking for a quarterback, go with Florida State‘s EJ Manuel as their choice at no. 16. Originally, everyone thought that the Doug Marrone (former Syracuse head coach)-coached Bills would be selecting Orange QB Ryan Nassib here. But it ends up that’s just not the case, and now Nassib has to wait with the rest of this draft’s quarterback crop.

Admittedly, I think this is a bit of a reach — no QB in this draft is really first-round caliber — but Manuel is a proven commodity from his time at FSU, and if you’re going with a passer, either he or Nassib would be a fine choice. Do you disagree?

Want to read up on Manuel a bit more? Check out our Florida State draft preview from  last week.

Congrats to EJ and his family. We’ll be updating the blog with every first round pick as they happen.

#goacc

Previously: Jonathan Cooper Selected #7 Overall by Arizona Cardinals

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Syracuse Prospects

With Former SU Coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo, Does That Make Nassib a First-Rounder?

With Former SU Coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo, Does That Make Nassib a First-Rounder?

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

For as much credit as former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone is rightfully due, the program’s resurgence doesn’t happen without the boatload of talented players, either. And that’s never been more readily apparent than at this year’s draft, as the Orange could have as many as six players selected, many in the first two days. Between stellar showings at the combine and pro day, and a league-wide feeling that now-Bills coach Marrone will draft as many former SU guys as possible, the value of every former Orange player has been steadily climbing.

Ryan Nassib, QB, Senior (Projected: Second Round)

In a realistic assessment of Nassib’s talent, he’s a smart passer with leadership traits, a strong arm and enough potential to work his way into a starting role within the next couple seasons. But operating under the assumption that Marrone is both drafting a quarterback and drafting all Syracuse players, suddenly Nassib could very well be a top-10 pick. Over the course of his career, Nassib was exactly the type of program-builder you need at the collegiate level; a three-year starter who improved himself each season. With a strong build and an even stronger arm, scouts see him as the type of passer who can stay calm in the pocket, while also threading the needle on medium routes. Where teams are concerned — and SU fans can agree here — are his ability to accurately complete long balls and his ability to put some touch on the ball. He never truly mastered either at Syracuse, and if there’s anything in particular that pushes him further than the first 40 or so selections, it’ll be that. Though again, with Marrone and former SU offensive coordinator (now Bills OC) Nathaniel Hackett calling the shots, it seems a foregone conclusion he’ll be a Bill in either the first or second round.

Justin Pugh, OT, Senior (Projected: Second Round)

The biggest issues with Pugh going into the combine were how his shoulder injury from last season was holding up, and if he really had the size to hack it at the tackle spot in the NFL. So while he’s put some durability fears to rest by showing off the shoulder’s doing fine, there’s now a prevailing thought that he’d be better off at the offensive guard position. At 6’5″ and 307 pounds, he’s got the right height and weight, but fails to have the arm length and brute force needed to hold down the offensive line’s most important position. Still, regardless of what position he ends up at, his speed (5.12 40-yard dash) and work ethic are appealing to teams, and he’s viewed as having a lot of upside (more than most O-linemen in the draft, actually).

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ACC Football Head Coaching Hot Seats 2013

Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson is One of Several ACC Coaches on Tentative Ground Right Now

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson is One of Several ACC Coaches on Tentative Ground Right Now

We’re just jumping into spring practice (you can look at every ACC team’s previews here), but for all 14 (15) squads, this is the start of the 2013 season. And for head coaches, this is where the year’s evaluations start; from their players, the school administrations, the fans and the boosters that can easily pull the plug on their position. While some of the ACC‘s head coaches are firmly entrenched where they’re at, there are also plenty that find themselves in precarious situations. Regarding both, we provide a quick evaluation of where all of them stand, new coaches and all.

Completely Safe (5)

Dabo Swinney, Clemson (sixth year): Swinney has brought the Tigers to an extended period of success they haven’t seen in decades, winning the ACC, becoming a perennial top-20 program and taking home a huge victory in the 2012 Chick-fil-a Bowl. The only things left? Consistently beating South Carolina and winning a national championship.

David Cutcliffe, Duke (sixth year): After getting Duke to their first bowl game since 1994, it appears that Cutcliffe can do no wrong in Durham. Of course, now the question begs whether he can keep it up. So long as he can consistently win between five and seven games, Cutcliffe will be just fine at Duke.

Charlie Strong, Louisville (fourth year): Strong had a real opportunity to leave this past offseason, yet chose to stick around at Louisville to finish what he started. While there’s always the threat he could head to the SEC, Strong’s ability to rebuild this program and contend on a national stage (see: Sugar Bowl) have him here long-term if he wants to be.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina (second year): Just a small sample size for Fedora thus far, but in his one season, he’s already brought UNC to a place of far more prominence than they’ve been in a decade. He’ll get several seasons to continue implementing his system, but if trends continue, he’ll be fine in Chapel Hill.

Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (second year): Another second-year coach, Chryst has seen some results after a season at the helm, but it appears he’s set to grow the program further after (especially after a nice recruiting haul this spring). If they take a step back, questions may start, but he’s got plenty of runway to work with.

Fine for Now (4)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (fourth year): Expectations are always high at FSU, so it’s no surprise Fisher sits here, despite winning 12 games and an ACC title last year. Now, of course, it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up year-to-year. If Fisher can’t contend more than every few seasons, patience will grow short very quickly around Florida State.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Syracuse Orange

Can Charley Loeb Succeed Ryan Nassib As the Orange QB This Spring, Or is it Someone Else's Job to Lose?

Can Charley Loeb Succeed Ryan Nassib As the Orange QB This Spring, Or is it Someone Else’s Job to Lose?

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Syracuse Orange

Spring Practice Start Date: March 19

Spring Game Date: April 20

Syracuse wrapped up a wild 2012 season by winning six of seven games… and then watching their head coach, Doug Marrone, and seven other staff members walk out the door for the Buffalo Bills. Since then, panic has subsidized for the Orange faithful, but there are still plenty of questions for this group. New head coach Scott Shafer’s committed to keeping the transition as simple as possible (he was the team’s defensive coordinator last year after all), but the success of that strategy relies largely on the personnel. SU must replace several key contributors on both sides of the ball, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to alleviate those issues by the end of spring ball.

First and foremost, the team is faced with as tough a challenge as any in the nation, replacing departed senior quarterback (and program poster boy) Ryan Nassib. After a record-setting career that brought the program back from the depths, Nassib’s off to the NFL (and likely the Bills), and in his place is a massive hole to fill. As of right now, there are four candidates for the job — Charley Loeb, John Kinder, Terrell Hunt and Ashton Broyld — and without much experience (Nassib was a three-year starter), it’s virtually anyone’s game. Plus, whoever this new passer may be will also have to figure out who he’s throwing to. Top targets Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales are both gone as well, leaving the team to wonder if Jarrod West, Jeremiah Kobena and Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk can step up as the main receiving options. There’s also the issue of the offensive line, which must try to replace star lineman Justin Pugh as well. In the early goings this spring, the squad’s biggest saving grace may be the backfield, which returns all three top rushers from last year and looks to build upon a strong finish.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Capped Off an Eight-Win 2012 With a Dominating Effort Over West Virginia

Syracuse Capped Off an Eight-Win 2012 With a Dominating Effort Over West Virginia

Team: Syracuse Orange

W-L: 8-5

Postseason: 38-14 New Era Pinstripe Bowl win over West Virginia

Top Offensive Performer: Ryan Nassib, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Brandon Sharpe, DE

Syracuse was looking to leave the conference they founded (the Big East) on a high-note, but things didn’t appear to be going as planned when they started off the year a disappointing 2-4. But then something clicked. The Orange, at one time haunted by the ghosts of a five-game losing streak to close 2011, wrapped up 2012 by winning six of seven, including their second Pinstripe Bowl victory in two years. It was a fitting end to send their senior quarterback (and soon after, head coach, too) out in style.

At the focal point of early August’s practices was a complete revamp of the SU offense. Over the past few seasons, the team appeared to get bogged down by their inability to move the ball (24 points per game in 2011; 22 points per game in 2010), and then-offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was tasked with fixing the issue. After quickly installing a no-huddle system with spread elements, it appeared the Orange were in business early in September. While the first two games both resulted in losses, the offense appeared to be firing on all cylinders, mostly by the strength of senior QB Ryan Nassib’s arm. In those two early contests alone, Nassib would complete 75 of 132 passes for 804 yards and six scores. But then the wheels began to come off, and thus entered then-coach Doug Marrone’s “tank” package; implementing goal-line elements on various downs and distances, specifically designed for running back Adonis Ameen-Moore. Once the set took hold, it immediately balanced the Syracuse attack, and a group that was floundering by mid-September finished the year scoring 30 points per game, with the  17th-ranked offense in the country. Nassib and wideout Alec Lemon were still the stars of the show, mind you, but what they really needed to be successful was a well-planned rushing attack — something they saw from October onward, as the SU backfield would end the season ranked 40th in the FBS, racking up 187 yards per game.

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ACC Football Top 25 Players of 2012: #5, Ryan Nassib

Syracuse's Ryan Nassib Left His Place in the Record Books During a Sterling Four-Year Career

Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib Left His Place in the Record Books During a Sterling Four-Year Career

As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 5, Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (Preseason Rank: NR)

Okay, I’m a homer. This happens from time to time. But can anyone really doubt the importance or success of Ryan Nassib’s senior season? When we look back at former head coach Doug Marrone’s four-year tenure at Syracuse, it’s likely that beyond the recaptured success of the program, Nassib’s name will be the first thing to come to mind. After playing minimally as a freshman, his three full seasons as starting quarterback were a clinic on how to develop talent over the course of a player’s college career. While at times, he’s made questionable decisions (what college QB hasn’t?) and he still has that pesky issue of not putting any touch on the ball, Nassib grew into a leadership role, and was the unquestioned focal point of the team by the time his final game (fittingly, against West Virginia) wrapped up. As for lasting legacy, the passer leaves Syracuse after throwing for nearly 9,200 yards (3,749 this season) and 70 TDs (26 in 2012). He earned two bowl victories for a team that hadn’t won a postseason game since 2001. And again, he was the face of a program revival, winning 21 games over a three-year stretch (following a five-year stretch where the won just 13 total).

Next year, Syracuse will be hard-pressed to replace him, but he’ll be on to bigger and better things in the NFL. The aforementioned issue with taking a little off the ball is the only knock most scouts will bring up, but based on the guy’s smarts and the Buffalo Bills’ need for a passer, there’s even a chance that Nassib becomes a top-10 selection at the NFL Draft.

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