Quarterback Throwdown: UTEP's Quarterbacks Through Four Games

John Madden had a saying, "If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one." Well UTEP is taking that theory a step further. Zack Greenlee, Ryan Metz, and Kavika Johnson have all seen time for the Miners. Greenlee and Johnson have both started in the Miners' first four games. Metz has come for relief in three. The results have been bad, or worse. Since winning the opener at home over New Mexico State, UTEP lost on the road to a superior Texas team and then lost back to back home games to Army and Southern Miss. The latter a conference game. 

Sean Kugler

Sean Kugler

They didn't just lose to Army and Southern Miss, UTEP was blown out. In those two losses the Miners were outscored 100-21. UTEP quarterbacks completed 51% of their passes with an average of 139 passing yards, three picks, and one touchdown. The quarterback position isn't the reason UTEP is 1-3, but as poorly as it's played, the Miners need a Herculean effort from the run game and defense to stand a chance. Hercules has left town. 

The question comes down to what Sean Kugler wants his offense to look like? Kavika Johnson is a package player and the best runner of the three. Against Texas, Johnson did well when in a reduced playbook that allowed him to throw short, predetermined routes, and be a runner. Once the necessity arose to expand the playbook, Johnson struggled.

Greenlee is in between, a better runner than Metz, though not as good as Johnson, and I would argue not the thrower Metz is, though better than Johnson. Greenlee struggles with accuracy and makes the occasional throw that will drive a coach to drink. 

Metz is more of a classic pocket passer. He's been wildly inconsistent over his career, looking the part at times, at other times he looks lost. Our bet is that even though the depth chart says "or" at the quarterback position, Kugler turns to Metz at least initially. 

That's part of the problem, the revolving door, both by necessity due to Greenlee's injury, and out of desperation (see the Army game) hasn't helped. We also wonder whether Brent Pease is the answer at offensive coordinator. Pease was the bell of the ball in 2011 after one season as the coordinator for the Boise State. Alabama and Florida both vied for his services, but Florida won out. Two years later he was out after an inconsistent tenure at Florida. He rejoined Chris Peterson at Washington as receivers coach but lasted just two years before Peterson made a change. 

As an offensive coordinator Pease has overseen offenses at FBS school Northern Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor, Boise, Florida, and now UTEP. At Kentucky, a year prior to Pease's arrival, the Wildcats were 11th ranked in total offense in the nation. During Pease's two seasons the Wildcats dropped to 56th and 87th. At Baylor Pease's offense ranked 114, 102, and 97. In 2011 Boise ranked 11th in total offense. His first year at Florida the Gators were 103 in total offense, his second they ranked 113. His historical results are troublesome. 

A quick caveat: The key for any program is to establish an identity. We talk about this all the time. What do you do well? Why does Urban Meyer succeed at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, Ohio State? Because his teams play with an identity. Physicality, assignment football on defense. He won with MAC level talent, Mountain West level talent, and blue chippers. Tom Herman took that identity to Houston. The Roundup has always thought that Sean Kugler's hire would bring about a specific identity. Physicality in to counter a pace and space spread galaxy. The quarterback decision really comes down to who UTEP wants to be. The buffet is there, we wonder if UTEP knows what it wants. Or perhaps has a the coordinator to get them there.  

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

The saddest part of all this is that Aaron Jones is having a remarkable comeback season, second in the NCAA in rushing and a true homerun threat. Jones is averaging 141 yards a game and 7.4 yards a carry. That's a running attack that few teams in NCAA football can match. If UTEP's quarterbacks contribute at all, the Miners would have a dynamic two pronged attack. Opponents aren't the least bit concerned about UTEP ability to pass the ball so Jones has been on his own. 

Posted on September 29, 2016 and filed under Southwest Round-Up.