Ryan Nassib takes a philosophical view of what spring position battles really mean.
"Spring is when you earn your job, and the fall is when you win," he says. "Nothing really matters until you've got a place at the table at the beginning of the first game."
Nassib learned that lesson firsthand last year. Early on in the spring, he was named Syracuse's starting quarterback even though he was just a redshirt freshman with no experience. After spring ball ended, however, Greg Paulus transferred in from Duke and was named the starter during fall camp. Nassib did nothing to lose the job, really, but Paulus was the veteran, even if he hadn't played football in four years.
But Nassib didn't just ride the pine. He played in 10 games and got plenty of snaps in several of them as the Orange began to groom him for the future. He also came in on special packages, sometimes even lining up at receiver. Against West Virginia, after Paulus struggled, he completed 7-of-16 passes for 120 yards and two scores.
"I didn't have the typical role of a second-string quarterback," Nassib said. "I got a chance to get in and experience real-life game time. I had some success and some failures. I learned a lot from it."
He completed 52.9 percent of his throws for 422 yards and three touchdowns, plus an interception. Doug Marrone said Nassib learned lessons that were just as valuable simply by watching how Paulus went about his preparations.
"He was great to look up to," Nassib said. "He was a veteran college athlete. He taught me some great things, not only on the field but in locker room with the team and how to handle yourself."
Nassib entered this spring with the upper hand on the quarterback job, but Marrone hasn't anointed him as the starter. Freshman Charley Loeb is pushing him in practice, and highly-regarded recruit Jonny Miller will arrive this summer. Nassib knows that nothing is certain.
But he's in a much better frame of mind this spring than he was this time a year ago.
"I have a better understanding of what college football is and what it takes to compete at this level," he said. "Last spring, I was like a freshman, not knowing much. Now that I've got a whole year under my belt and have experienced a lot of things, I feel a lot more confident out on the field."
Nassib hopes he's on the field as the starter come September. He's not taking anything for granted this time around, though.