Nathaniel Hackett couldn't help but crack a laugh when told that Ryan Nassib said he wants to play within himself this season.
"That makes me happy," Syracuse's offensive coordinator said of his quarterback. "He's listening to me."
That may just be the biggest key for Nassib to finish his Orange career on a strong note. He enters his third year as Syracuse's starter on the brink of numerous school records, as he is currently among the top-five in every major career passing category. Nassib's 2011 campaign saw him set school single-season records for completions (259) and passing yards (2,685) while tying the mark for touchdown passes (22).
But five straight losses to end the year kept the Orange from postseason play, with the offense scoring more than 20 points just once during that season-closing stretch.
"It is a little more natural because it's my third year into the system," Nassib said of this year's camp. "Even though we have been making some adjustments done, trying some new things, my biggest thing now is trying not to do too much. Playing within myself, playing within the system, trying not to think too much and just going out there and playing.
"Pretty much what I did my first two years when I was kind of new to the system, sometimes I found myself trying to do something with the play or something like that that doesn't need to be done. Just work the play, work the system and not try to do too much."
Fourth-year head coach Doug Marrone spoke this offseason about making a few offensive adjustments, wrinkles that Hackett said will present themselves through different formations aimed at exploiting Syracuse's more seasoned weapons and, thus, easing the burden carried by the signal caller.
With younger skill players such as Ashton Broyld and Adonis Ameen-Moore pushing for meaningful opportunities, upperclassmen like Jerome Smith, Jarrod West and Marcus Sales likely won't be overworked, which wasn't exactly the case last season with all-Big East running back Antwon Bailey.
"We had some young guys last year that had some small roles, but now we're looking for these guys to step up into bigger roles," Nassib said. "Personally, I think we've got more playmakers out there. A lot more guys that I can move around with, get the ball to and have them do what they do. And that allows us not to beat up some of our key guys. So having depth on the offense is something that I think we have this year that will greatly help us that we didn't have the last couple years."
Wth zone-reads becoming part of Syracuse's package this season, the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Nassib will likely see a few more carries as well.
The success of those plays hinges largely on Nassib's decision-making, as the fifth-year senior will be charged with balancing when to take it upon himself and when to trust his teammates, the surest sign of maturity.
"Leadership is a funny word," Hackett said. "I think it's one of those things that he does a great job just understanding that it's not just about one man. It's about everybody, and that's the thing that we're preaching -- that if he just does his job, if he brings everybody together and they just have fun and play some football, they're going to be OK. He doesn't have to do too much.
"It's about the whole team, and he's really trying to buy into that, really working hard at understanding, Hey, I've just got to do what I do best: Utilize my footwork, see the open man and deliver the ball and not try to do too much, because that's now going outside of the team. And I think that's what he's doing great, just from a viewpoint of leadership, and that's what's wonderful to see as he grows. I'm so lucky I've had him for three years. A lot of coaches don't get that opportunity."