Loeb shines in Spring Game, SU coaches say no definite starter at QB
After a freshman season roaming the sidelines with a clipboard in hand, Charley Loeb entered the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon as somewhat of an afterthought.
Ryan Nassib was Syracuse’s starting quarterback and appeared to have solidified his hold on the position with his vast development from a year ago. But after Saturday’s Spring Game, it was Loeb’s 259 yards passing and three touchdown passes that may have added some uncertainty to SU’s starting quarterback position this fall.
‘I felt real comfortable,’ Loeb said. ‘It was really good to be out there and gain some experience, and we just had a lot of fun out there. It did a lot for my confidence.’
In front of a crowd of 4,752 at Syracuse’s annual Spring Game, Loeb took advantage of the most action he’s seen in more than a year. In the process, the redshirt freshman gave Syracuse fans a glimpse of just how competitive the quarterback battle could be this fall. Following the specialized scoring system from last year’s game, the Orange offense won a tight contest, 66-58.
On his first pass attempt, Loeb avoided a sack before unleashing a near-perfect spiral to an open Marcus Sales down the right sideline. The 39-yard completion got the crowd going and, on the very next play, running back Averin Collier weaved his way through the middle of the defense for the first touchdown of the day.
‘Charley had a great day today,’ Nassib said. ‘He made some big-time throws and some big-time plays and did some great things.’
Loeb compiled his yardage by connecting on 18-for-23 passing against the Orange’s second-string defense. Among those 18 completions was a 55-yard touchdown to Sales, a rising junior wideout, and three other downfield strikes of more than 25 yards.
Of course, as Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone was quick to point out, Loeb did all of his damage against a thin group of reserves. But that doesn’t mean his performance was meaningless.
‘I’m very happy with both players,’ Marrone said. ‘I think what we have to do in the evaluation process, like I always say, is look at the competition. Charley’s going out there and he’s going against different types of defenders that Ryan is going out there against. … But I’m happy with the progress of both quarterbacks.’
Nassib’s numbers were less impressive overall — 141 yards and a touchdown on 10-of-19 passing. But, as Marrone said, his performance came against SU’s starting defense. Like Loeb, Nassib also ripped off four completions for more than 25 yards, including a 40-yarder to rising sophomore receiver Alec Lemon. Both quarterbacks were picked off once by the defense.
Quarterback coach Nathaniel Hackett called the offensive plays Saturday and was excited with the performances he saw. Though he said both players have their ‘ups and downs,’ Hackett came away impressed with the play of two of his star pupils.
‘The guys just made the passes, made the throws,’ Hackett said afterward. ‘So it was great. From my standpoint, they both did great.’
Though Loeb’s performance has to be taken with proper perspective, coaches aren’t saying that it was a fluke. Or that there’s nothing behind it. Nor were they saying that Nassib will undoubtedly be the starter this fall.
‘It’s time now to sit and evaluate,’ Hackett said. ‘You have to sit there and say, ‘What’s going to be the best for the team?’ And we’re going to try and make the best decision and roll with it, and that’s the process now.’
Heading into the summer, SU’s pair of quarterbacks will use a 12-week workout program to help them get an edge in what should be an intriguing position battle this spring. Nassib said he expects competition and will use this summer to the best of his advantage.
And for Hackett, the first-year coach finds himself in an enviable position for this upcoming season. After all, he appears to have two guys capable of leading the Orange offense as the starter Sept. 4 at Akron.
‘You couldn’t ask for that,’ Hackett said. ‘I mean, that’s like a dream. We’ve got two great guys, very great leaders, both young. So all-around, it’s a great deal.’
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