Ryan Metz may not have been the quarterback UTEP wanted, but he was the quarterback UTEP needed in 2016. Benched to start the year in favor of Fresno transfer Zack Greenlee, all Metz did was come in and lead the Miners to three of their four wins in 2016. Does UTEP have a quarterback for 2017? Maybe.
Ok, we're suckers from radar graphs and all other demonstratives, we have excel and we use it at times ineffectively, but whatever. We track quarterbacks through 8-10 criteria the most important of which (and we totally stole this from Bill Connelly over at football study hall) are completion percentage, interception rate, sack rate, yards per attempt, and yards per play (taking into account passing, sack, and rushing yardage). We take those five indicators and every quarterback with 100 or attempts and give each quarterback a percentile rank amongst his peers. Is it flawless? Nope. Does it give us a pretty good indicator of how efficient a quarterback is? You bet. If you rank in the top 75 in terms of percentile, you're really good, probably elite. If you rank in the top 50% that's a decent number. Below that and we've got some work to do.
Here's Metz and Greenlee's radar graphs.
One observation right off the top with Metz, and this label can be interpreted as a negative but we don't use it as such, he's a game manager. His completion percentage and interception rate are both at or near elite levels. His completion percentage at 64.7% is good enough for the 88th percentile. Among CUSA quarterbacks the 88th percentile is good enough for third behind Mike White and Ryan Higgins. Those two guys were among the best quarterbacks in college football last year. Higgins by the way went to Louisiana Tech by way of Hutto and no Texas schools saw fit to offer him a scholarship. Good job guys.
Metz interception rate or interception avoidance is in the 70th percentile. That's very good, though surprisingly nine CUSA quarterbacks finished above Metz in that category.
If Sean Kugler could design a quarterback from the players he has on his roster, he's probably graft Greenlee's sack avoidance with Metz' completion percentage and interception avoidance. Then he'd hand the ball to Aaron Jones 30 times. That's really the point, Kugler isn't going to ask his quarterback to play like Patrick Mahomes does in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. Kugler wants to pummel opponents with a physical run game, stay ahead of the chains, and use the passing game for safe throws and the occasional splash play.
When Kugler turned to Metz the Miners were in a tailspin. After a win over New Mexico State, the Miners took a beating in Austin, returned home the biggest crowd of the season and watched Army run all over them and tune them up for 66 points then were blown out by Southern Miss. Metz started the Louisiana Tech game against the eventual CUSA Western Division Champ on the road, a 28-7. Metz was injured against Louisiana Tech and didn't play vs. FIU at home.
He returned at UTSA a week later with a 1-5 Miner team stuck in a five game losing streak. In UTEP's last three games the Miners would go 3-3, all with Metz at the helm. In five of Metz' starts he completed 65% or better didn't throw multiple picks in any game.
Dink and Dunk
Now the bad news, there's risk aversion and then there's wrapping your offense in bubble wrap. Metz doesn't threaten defenses downfield as is 32nd percentile rank in yards per play and 31st percentile rank in yards per attempt both indicate. Metz ability to challenge downfield dictated to some degree UTEP's ability to win games. In wins Metz' yards per attempt was a full three yards better than in losses. (9.5 to 6.1).
Metz also struggled with sack avoidance, ranking in the 40th percentile. UTEP, as a whole did a good job protecting the quarterback, ranking 39th in sacks allowed and 3rd in CUSA.
Heading into 2017, UTEP replaces its top two pass catchers in Cole Freytag and Hayden Plinke, Neither caught more than 40 passes, but Plinke will be particularly missed. Of Plinke's 38 catches, 33 came in Metz starts. Plinke averaged 12.7 yards per catch as opposed to just 7.4 yards per catch in games not started by Metz. Metz needs to find another security blanket. Plinke owes Metz a steak dinner after his first NFL paycheck clears.
Metz should be the guy moving forward for Kugler and Co. Greenlee, though more highly regarded struggled, putting up similar numbers to his Fresno State production which was nothing to get too excited about. Kavika Johnson is an interesting athlete and change of pace player, but he may be better suited for receiver. Then there's Metz, the local kid from Andres who enters his junior season with what should be a fair amount of confidence given what he did in 2016.