Graham Mertz was supposed to be the next big thing at Wisconsin. And for once, it wasn’t supposed to be a running back.

Everybody knew Jonathan Taylor would be the show to watch in Madison this season. But going forward, it’s always about having competent quarterback play to help balance an always dynamic Badger rushing attack.

That’s why when Mertz — the No. 3 QB in the entire 2019 class — signed with the Badgers, it got many people excited about the future.

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Wisconsin went on to have a respectable year, getting to the Rose Bowl. There’s nothing to scoff at there. But if it wants to take that next step, win the Big Ten and get to a College Football Playoff, having elite QB play is likely a must. With Mertz, that’s possible.

This season, Mertz appeared in two games, though. He played backup to Jack Coan, who played well. Nobody is calling Coan an all-star. Nobody is calling him incapable of leading Wisconsin. Again, it made the Rose Bowl this year.

But, what did Mertz take away from appearing in just two games his first year in college? After all, other programs promised him a first-year starting role:

“The biggest thing was owning the playbook and mastering the playbook,” Mertz said. “For me, this season has been a great opportunity to do that. I can gladly say I grew this year.”

“The offense is a tricky offense. It’s an NFL offense. To be able to play in that offense, you need at least a year under your belt. I’m grateful they didn’t just throw me in.”

Mertz on why he originally chose Wisconsin:

“The reason why I came here was because they didn’t promise me anything,” he said. “A lot of schools told me, ‘You’ll come in day one and start.’ That was their selling point. Or it was ‘Come down to the coast, we’ve got a beach.’

“Wisconsin was, ‘Come see it. If you like it, you’re a fit, and we’re all in.’ Not having them try and sell me on anything is what made me fall in love with the place.”

More from Mertz about the future:

“Every once in a while (the attention) surprises me,” he told Badger247. “At the same time, that’s why I came here. I could make a difference here in the future. That gets me excited.”

The best may be yet to come for the Badgers.

It certainly seems that way for Mertz.