Comments Stepping under center with the first-team offense, Ryan Nassib remembered just how good this felt. As Syracuse opened spring practice March 22, Nassib’s name sat atop the depth chart at quarterback. But the sophomore wasn’t taking anything for granted.‘This year, I have a whole year under my belt,’ Nassib said. ‘I’ve been through a lot with the season. I’ve learned a lot and am executing a lot differently out on the field.’And once the 11-on-11 scrimmaging began on opening day, Nassib started solidifying his hold on the position that was taken from him before the start of last season.In just the first series of action, Nassib took a snap, side-stepped two rushing defenders in the backfield and unleashed a spiral downfield for a perfect 40-yard connection with wide receiver Alec Lemon. Despite drawing chest bumps and high-fives from the rest of the offense — and a raving chorus from the onlooking coaching staff — SU’s 6-foot-3 quarterback remained poised following the play. No high-fives, no clapping. Nothing. Instead of celebrating, Nassib did exactly what coaches have told him all his life and acted like he had been there before. A large part of his reaction was because, in reality, he had been.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnointed the starting quarterback in spring practice last spring before losing the job to one-year transfer Greg Paulus once Paulus arrived to campus in August 2009, Nassib still took most of his reps with the first-team offense last March. But a year later, this go-around feels different. Completely different.‘Last year was night and day compared to this year,’ Nassib said. ‘I came in last spring not knowing much, never really competing in practice, didn’t know any of the game situation.’ One year ago, Paulus transferred in for one season, and Nassib’s hold on the position disappeared. Once the fall rolled around, Paulus had entrenched himself as the starting quarterback. Nassib played in nine games, with varying results, and ultimately made as much as he could of his first year on the field.The difference this year, head coach Doug Marrone said, is ‘incredible.’In hindsight, Nassib said he now views last year’s situation as a good thing, a ‘learning experience.’ Though he obviously would have loved starting, he said the experience allowed him to step back and see what was going on out on the field, ultimately improving his game moving forward. And it is also what has given him the resolve to go out and ‘earn’ the job that has already been given to him. He knows all too well there are no guarantees when the fall rolls around.‘He obviously understood the situation last year, and he just worked hard all season knowing that he would have his chance again,’ center Ryan Bartholomew said. ‘And he’s going to make sure this time nobody can take it away from him. ‘You can tell in the way he prepares and the way he knows the offense.’Nassib has been looking forward to the start of spring practice ever since a 56-31, season-ending blowout loss to Connecticut on Nov. 28. With Paulus’ eligibility exhausted, the reigns to the offense are once again in Nassib’s hands. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be competition. Marrone didn’t recruit Nassib. But he did recruit second-string quarterback Charley Loeb and two of SU’s top recruits for this fall, John Kinder and Jonny Miller. And Nassib knows that.So instead of using the short offseason to relax, he instead used it to study up on the playbook, learn the nuances of a newly installed offense and increase his physical preparation, knowing he had to make the most of spring ball. This time, that hold on the position wasn’t going to be lost.‘Every spring there’s going to be pressure, there’s always going to be someone competing for the position you’re competing for,’ Nassib said. ‘And no matter who it is, there’s always going to be pressure. It’s always in the back of your mind. So you’ve always got to play your best because you know the other guy is going to play their best.’Like he did in the fall, Nassib still has Paulus in his ear, serving as what he refers to as a ‘positive reinforcement.’ And even more importantly, he has Marrone tutoring him on the nuances of the newly installed offense. That is what Nassib views as the most valuable benefit of having his head coach as his offensive coordinator.And that, he believes, will make him a better quarterback when the fall rolls around. Starting middle linebacker Derrell Smith has known Nassib can play since his true freshman year. He still recalls Nassib ‘torching’ the starting defense as the scout team quarterback. But after a year under his belt, and some successful in-game experience in tote, Smith is seeing even more this spring.‘He’s a big leader now,’ Smith said. ‘He’s honestly a true leader for us now. When we need a play, we feel like we can look to him and say, ‘Ryan, we need a touchdown,’ and he’ll do it. He’s just got that swagger to him this year.’Linebackers leading defenseLed by Smith, Syracuse returns its core group of linebackers from last season. And during the first week of spring practice, the chemistry of the unit is already showing. Following a Smith interception that was run back for a touchdown on March 24, the defense swarmed the middle linebacker and the chest bumps started. As did the noise.‘We’re out there knowing everything is on us,’ linebacker Ryan Gillum said. ‘Just being around each other and playing together, we have fun all the time, yelling and screaming and getting to the ball. We’re having a lot of fun.’Each time one of the linebackers would get an interception, a big block or a fumble recovery, the chirping started. Smith said that after a year playing together, and a year in the current defensive scheme, they’re just out there having fun.‘Now it’s more like a competitive nature, so we pretty much compete against each other,’ Smith said. ‘After a play we come up like, ‘Yeah, I got that tackle,’ or, ‘Yeah, I got that sack.’ We just go out there and play rather than thinking too much.’Marrone likes what he sees with this group. He said the competitive nature and intensity out on the field has been good for the team, and he’s looking forward to what could be a strong season for the unit.‘They’re all players that have a chance to have honors after the season,’ Marrone said. ‘I just think they’re getting better and better and they feel more comfortable, obviously, than they were a year ago. We’re looking for very productive play out of those positions.’firstname.lastname@example.org Published on March 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+
Sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier leaps into the air to spike the ball in a game against Cal at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. Photo by Kaan Demiroz | Daily TrojanThe No. 17 USC women’s volleyball team (16-7, 8-4 Pac-12) is back home after four straight away matches. On Friday, the Trojans host Arizona State, and on Sunday, they host Arizona.“This weekend we’re looking to have great games versus both Arizonas,” junior libero Victoria Garrick said. Last time the Women of Troy faced off against these two teams, they split their games. Out in Tucson, USC was stunned in a straight-sweep against the Wildcats (25-23, 25-17, 26-24). The team bounced back and picked up a four-set win in Tempe against the Sun Devils (19-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-22). “We’re very excited for the Arizona game because they swept us,” Garrick said. “We were completely caught off guard. I don’t think we expected to lose the game, let alone get swept.”This time around, the Women of Troy will have home court advantage. As the Pac-12 is arguably the toughest conference for women’s volleyball, wins on the home court are vital. USC has fared well at the Galen Center: it has a home record of 6-1. The Trojans’ only loss at home was against then-No. 3 Stanford. Now the Cardinal has jumped up to No. 2 in the rankings. In its last four matches, USC has gone 2-2. Its offense has been missing a key component in sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier, who has been sidelined. In the team’s matches in Washington, freshman outside hitter Brooke Botkin continued to impress. Botkin had 30 kills on the weekend, a team high. She put up two aces and 18 digs. Rounding out the other side of USC’s attack are senior opposites Brittany Abercrombie and Niki Withers. The two combined for 52 kills in the team’s last two outings. “I know that [the Wildcats] should be a little frightened,” Garrick said. “We’re ready to get up for that match and really put the hammer on them.”To pick up two wins against the Arizona schools, the Women of Troy will need to rely on Botkin, Abercrombie and Withers. They’ll also need a resurgence of offensive strength from junior outside hitter Alyse Ford. While Ford did not play against the Huskies, she led the team with 14 kills two days later in their sweep of the Cougars. The Sun Devils are led by senior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro. Okaro has 385 kills on the season, averaging 4.48 kills per set. Arizona State’s offense is rounded out by freshman outside hitter Griere Hughes and sophomore outside hitter Ivana Jeremic. Hughes has 226 kills on the season, averaging by 2.94 kills per set. Jeremic has 221 kills on the season, averaging 2.76 kills per set. The Wildcats are led by a bevy of young talent. Freshman outside hitter Paige Whipple leads the team with 165 kills on the season, averaging 2.36 kills per set. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Elizabeth Shelton is second on the team with 132 kills on the season, averaging 2.10 kills per set. Freshman middle blocker Candice Denny is third on the list. Denny is seventh in the conference with a .356 hitting percentage overall and third in the conference with a .372 hitting percentage in league play. She’s on track to be the first freshman in program history to hit at least .350. The Women of Troy will have to limit powerful attacks from the Arizona schools to pick up two more wins at home.
“When you look at the overall work that a player of Todd’s caliber got, it was in large part due to the fact that we had gone into the game saying we wanted to get both those guys involved,” McVay said. “Then, as a result of us not being quite as efficient or not being able to convert on those third downs, it just limits those ops.”Gurley finished 2018 with 1,251 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He missed the last two games of the regular season because of a knee injury. Super Bowl 53: Three reasons why the Rams lost The Rams always planned to split carries between their two running backs in the Super Bowl, coach Sean McVay revealed Tuesday.Los Angeles star Todd Gurley received just 11 touches in his team’s 13-3 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, one game after he also had a reduced role in the Rams’ win in the NFC championship. McVay explained Tuesday the team also wanted backup C.J. Anderson to be involved in the offense against New England.“We had gone in knowing that we wanted to kind of almost have a shared load between he and C.J.,” McVay said at his season-ending press conference, via USA Today. “So, the amount of attempts just rushing the ball the last couple games was a little bit different.” Related News Super Bowl 53: What’s next for Rams? McVay said Gurley’s opportunities were limited because of the game’s flow.“We didn’t get the amount of plays off and didn’t have the drive continuity (we wanted),” McVay said. “That’s a big result of why those opportunities were limited for him and just going into the game the way we had thought.”Gurley ran for 35 yards in the Super Bowl loss while C.J. Anderson added 22 yards on the ground on seven carries.