Quarterback Throwdown: Tyler Stehling Through Three Games

Things haven't started as well as Tyler Stehling nor Rice would have hoped. 0-3 with a lethargic or non-existent offense is no way to get off on the right foot. Stehling is a first year starter who has waited his time for the Owls, let's have a look his statistics for 2016 so far. 

OPP CMP ATT YDS CMP% TD INT RAT
@Western Kentucky 23 38 186 60.5 0 2 91.1
@Army 16 30 197 53.3 1 1 112.8
Baylor 8 25 33 32 0 0 43.1
Totals 47 93 416 50.5% 1 3 85.2

Not exactly awe inspiring. Sterling's struggles have resulted in a downward trend statistics from Western Kentucky down to Baylor.

When we go beyond the box score we get a better sense for how efficient Stehling's been thus far. 

When we look at the five areas of quarterback production that indicate both efficiency and explosiveness. Those areas are completion percentage, yards per attempt, interception rate, sack rate, and yards per play. If you're an efficient quarterback you're going to complete passes at above 60%, (that number or mean keeps rising) your going to be able to have a high yardage to attempt average and yardage per play average. Those last two stats both go directly to how prolific a quarterback is in moving his team downfield, regardless of system. Lastly you won't do two things that kill drives and get you beat i.e. get sacked and throw picks. We got this idea from the guru of college football advanced stats, the venerable Bill Connelly of SB Nation, Football Study Hall, et al. Read him. 

We're visual learners so we like to reduce those numbers to radar or area graph and to do so we take all passers with 14 or more attempts per game and then assign a percentile ranking to each in each of the five previously discussed categories. The higher percentile, the more effect the quarterback. As for the area graph we're looking for a wider area across all categories, a large blanket if you will. 

For reference sake, here's Tech's all everything Patrick Mahomes' area graph.  

Now this isn't a fair comparison, but it gives you an idea of how hard it is to do what Mahomes does. But it's just for illustration  sake. Mahomes has a mythical right arm that routinely does things that defy the laws of physics. 

Here is Stehling...

What jumps off right off is that Stehling and the Rice offense are very good at sack avoidance, bad at everything else. 

How bad? Let us tell you. 

When we look at completion percentage, national average as of this week is right at 59.9%. So average quarterbacks are completing almost 60% of their passes. Good/elite quarterbacks or those in the top quarter are completing on average 68.7% of their passes. Stehling is completing 50.5% of his passes, good enough or bad enough rather to fit right into the bottom 10th percentile of all qualifying quarterbacks.  

Stehling's completion percentage is a huge barrier to winning football. So too then is his minuscule yards per attempt rate, at 4.5 yards per attempt Stehling is in just the 2nd percentile. 98% of qualified passers rate ahead of him. His yards per play is at the 16th percentile rank. So, you could replace him with roughly 116 quarterbacks and produce more yardage on a given play. 

Obviously sample size is a problem right now and Stehling and Rice have played what is turning out to be a brutal schedule. We thought Western Kentucky would be good and Baylor is Baylor, but Army is as surprising a team as there is in the FBS. Those teams are a combined 8-1 with the one loss being WKU's at the hands of Alabama. So as conference games startup, some of these numbers will find their level. We just don't know what that level is because of Stehling's lack of game experience.  

Where does Rice go from here? Simple, rely on the run game in the same way the Owls did when Taylor McHargue was quarterback. McHargue wasn't Patrick Mahomes either, but he was a very good game manager. The Owls need to be physical with the run and let Stehling manage the game from favorable down and distance. Also Stehling is an ok runner. Sure he looks like an angry giraffe but he's averaging 4.5 yards a carry. We're not suggesting he's Lamar Jackson, but in moderation Stehling can be a ground weapon. 

The other option is to turn to the future, one of the young guys, J.T. Granato or Jackson Tyner. I don't expect David Bailiff to make that move just yet. What I think he might do is use Nate German at quarterback a bit more, maybe even expand German's play package. 

Rice needs a win over UNT in the worst way, but in all reality, the best the Owls were ever going to be from a win/loss perspective after three games was 1-2 so 0-3 isn't the end of the world provided the Owls can beat the Mean Green on Saturday. 

Posted on September 23, 2016 and filed under Southwest Round-Up.