We love Dalton Sturm. Yes, we were slow to come around, but we fell hard for the junior from Goliad. What's not to like? He's a former multi-sport star from a smaller high school, a walk-on, dude was a hurdler for Pete's sake, he can make all the throws, and he's gutsy. Why does being a hurdler matter? The old man, when he was coaching, always said that hurdlers are among the most disciplined yet athletic athletes in the world. If you're any good at running hurdles, you mastered timing, technique and efficiency, and you're doing it all while trying to run fast. Sturm ran the fastest 110 hurdles time in 2A his senior year. He finished 6th at State in the 300 meter hurdles. Translation: Special Athlete. Thanks, now we'll climb down off our hurdling soap box.
There's a lot to like about Sturm, but there's also a lot to wonder about.
Ok, we're suckers for 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.
Let's compare Sturm, vintage 2015 with Sturm from 2016.
Let's look at the good to start, Sturm improved in almost every statistical category in 2016. That's not surprising but we don't ever assume development, so he's trending in the right direction. He made a huge jump in interception percentile, from a below average 33% to a near elite level 77%. He more than doubled his percentile jump in yards per attempt and yards per play. And, even though it's still terrible, his sack avoidance was better, jumping from the 1st percentile to the 4th.
Sack rate is a concern, it's an efficiency killer. UTSA ranked 122nd in the FBS in sacks allowed right there tied with North Texas and one slot ahead of Texas State - a triumvirate of Texas pass protecting terribleness.
Only three times in 2016 did UTSA hold an opponent at or below that opponent's average sack total per game. That's a horrible sentence. Simpler to say, if you played UTSA chances are you set a season high sack total; ask Colorado State, North Texas, and Rice.
Sacks aren't entirely Sturm's fault, they are a collective occurrence. Against Colorado State UTSA's offensive line no showed, hence the -0.03 yards per rush. Coverage, lack of run game, line issues, they all add up in some measure to a sack. UTSA hasn't been good at avoiding them. Some of that falls on Sturm.
Inconsistency AND NO HELP
The bigger concern is the backslide Sturm's completion percentage took from 2015 to 2016 and even within the season. In his first six games Sturm completed an elite level 64% of his passes. In his last seven games that number dropped to 50%. Sturm's completion percentage dropped off the table. Even taking out the New Mexico Bowl where conditions weren't conducive to passing or standing upright, his second half completion percentage was 52%.
Why things fell apart in the second half is anyone's guess. UTSA missed accomplished tight end David Morgan or any tight end option for that matter. Maybe teams developed a more thorough book on Sturm and Frank Scelfo's offense.
The other issue that kept coming up was UTSA's lack of a running game, or at least inconsistent running game. The Roadrunners averaged 5.5 yards per carry in October, a great number, but that output was bookended by eight games where UTSA averaged less than three yards a rush. The four game October stretch included a 9.69 yards per rush anomaly against Southern Miss. That Southern Miss game was the perfect storm of explosive plays and included Sturm's best QB rating and completion percentage of 2016, though he attempted only twelve passes completing ten.
So which Dalton Sturm do the Roadrunners get in 2017? The elite, efficient Sturm from the first six games? The Sturm that looked like Johnny Manziel against Arizona State? Or the Sturm who struggled to complete 50% of his passes down the stretch? The Sturm who threw for more than 250 yards just once against FBS opponents?
All that to ponder, we still think he's real close to a breakout. His line returns three starters and his skill help is almost entirely in tact. This will be UTSA's most talented roster and they should be a favorite in CUSA West. He'll be in year two of Frank Scelfo's offense, a huge shift from what he was asked to do under the Coker regime. Did we mention he's a hurdler?