The Roundup Signal Caller Showdown series looks at the most important position on the field for some of the Roundup's 12 FBS programs, complete with bad excel graphs. Today, UTEP's Ryan Metz.
Ryan Metz finds himself in a three-way quarterback battle with Kavika Johnson and Fresno State transfer Zack Greenlee. More on Greenlee and Johnson later. Let's focus on Metz.
Metz is a redshirt sophomore locally grown at El Paso Andreas. One of many locally sourced talents that Sean Kugler has uncovered for the Miners. Metz lost the quarterback battle in 2015 to Mack Leftwich but, after a series of injuries, Metz found himself starting five games for the Miners. Leftwich is out for 2016 with a shoulder injury leaving Metz, et al to sort out the quarterback position.
Statistically Metz showed good and bad. Let's start with the good and to do so here's his area chart. Why is this significant? It's probably not, but we like it and stole the idea form stat guru Bill Connelly to get a visual on how quarterbacks performed in five key/strategic categories.
The area graph is based on where a player falls from a percentile standpoint against all other quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in 2015. We look at 5 very essential skills/stats. Yards per play is the total number of yards, whether on the ground or through the air, sack or touchdown, that a player accumulates. This is distinguishable from yards per attempt and gives us an idea of how a QB stacks up in terms of advancing an offense. Because the dual threat or running quarterback is such a large part of the game this stat accounts for those total yards. Yards per attempt are just that. We’re looking at passing efficiency in terms of yardage produced given all attempts not just the successful ones.
Completion percentage is essential to winning football in 2016 average college quarterbacks complete 59.5% of their passes. Exceed that number and you are, well, above average. Fall below that and you’re team is probably struggling. In an era where number of plays and tempo are critical, so is completion percentage. A low percentage and your offense is stagnate and your defense is probably exposed.
Interception rate is also critical because turnovers remain one of the great indicators of wins and losses. (The other being the score.) Finally sack rate examines how often a quarterback drops back and loses yardage. The worse the sack rate, the more inefficient a signal caller is, even though like each of the other five statistical categories, a quarterback is not solely responsible for sacks. Think of sack rate and interception rate like a golf score, the lower the rate, the better the score, we then flip that number so that the better the score that higher the percentile rank. You'd like a nice, healthy, full, area map. Ryan Metz doesn't have one of those.
Back to the good, Metz was well above average at sack avoidance. College stats treat sack as rushes, advanced stats like those at Football Outsiders treat them as a part of the passing game - i.e. the more sacks you take the more inefficient your pass game, if you can avoid sacks it adds to your ability to make plays down the field. Metz hit the 93 percentile, only Seth Russell was better among Texas FBS quarterbacks. Further Metz' yards per play was near the 60th percentile, not elite but not bad. Metz, not known as a runner, was above average in rush yards percentage. Metz did a pretty good job avoiding negative plays.
Now the bad, we've said - repeatedly - that elite college passes complete 65% or more of passes. Good quarterbacks are above 60%. Below that and you're just a guy. Metz is just a guy at 58%. Not terrible, but only good enough for the 49th percentile. UTEP's offense under Sean Kugler will always be based on the ability to run the ball and take advantage of the run to go downfield. A UTEP quarterback will never get the opportunities that a signal caller at Baylor or Tech will have, therefore efficiency is key. Metz didn't make the most of his opportunities.
Metz was also below average, way below average in yards per attempt and the dreaded interception rate. So while Metz did a decent job avoiding the negative yardage play, he was not successful throwing picks. 5% of Metz attempts landed in the hands of the wrong team, elite level quarterbacks see that number reduce to 1%. Metz threw four of his six picks against UTSA, a seminal game for is 2015 for some reason.
Two weeks after Metz brought the Miners back to a legendary win over rival New Mexico State and a week after Metz completed 71% of his passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, Metz threw four picks against UTSA in a home loss to a lesser Roadrunner squad. The Miners had rebounded from two losses to start the season with two wins to reset their record at 2-2. A game that should have built on that momentum against an 0-4 UTSA team, instead threw the Miners and Metz into a spiral. Prior to UTSA Metz completed 41 of 56 - at 73% clip - for 527 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. After UTSA Metz completed 41 of 83, a 49% rate, for 373 yards one touchdown and five interceptions. UTSA broke Ryan Metz.
Can Brent Pease or Sean Kugler fix him? Who knows. Pre-UTSA Ryan Metz looked like an upgrade over Mack Leftwich. Hell, he looked like an improvement over Aaron Rodgers. Post-UTSA Ryan Metz look like just some guy. Metz was eventually benched for good for Kavika Johnson. Johnson was a package player for much of the season, inserted to run a Wildcat variation and bring his athleticism to bear on the opponent. A change of pace. Johnson didn't do enough to take the job, so after spring practice Metz sits on top of the depth chart.
UTEP added grad transfer Zack Greenlee from Fresno State as well as dual threat JC transfer Tevin Muse to the fold. Greenlee started five game in 2015 at Fresno. The former Elite 11 quarterback wasn't great at Fresno. As a matter of fact, he was pretty bad. Ok, really bad. Greenlee completed 47% of his passes, his interception rate, sack rate - everything was bad. His 47% completion percentage was an improvement over his 43% completion percentage from the year before. So there's that. Maybe a change of scenery helps get Greenlee back on track. Maybe he is what he is.
UTEP has a lot going for it heading into 2016, a soft schedule, a healthy Aaron Jones, a veteran offensive line, a dynamic defensive playmaker, a decent secondary. That's more than most teams can say at this time of the year. But UTEP won't go far without one of these quarterbacks playing at a decent level. Metz has the most potential if only based on his first four games, you know before UTSA broke him.