Wisconsin football: Will the Badgers hit the transfer portal for a quarterback?
Nothing gets fans going quite like an offseason quarterback debate, and Clint Brewster of 247Sports dropped an interesting nugget late last week that Wisconsin will explore bringing in a quarterback to compete with Graham Mertz for the starting job.
The article said “247Sports is hearing” this will happen, so it’s tough to know exactly what that means or where that information might be coming from. We also don’t know what “explore” means in this situation. This could just be the coaching staff doing its due diligence on which quarterbacks are available like it would with any position.
Regardless, it’s tough to see a scenario in which the Badgers would tell their starting quarterback his job is in jeopardy barring an injury or a total collapse down the stretch. This is likely Mertz’s team the next few seasons, and here are a few reasons why he should be the guy moving forward.
Mertz is progressing
Mertz played his best 2 games of the year in consecutive weeks, and he has become significantly better than he was to start the season when the passing game was a complete mess. In blowout wins over Rutgers and Northwestern, Mertz completed 29 of 39 passes for 456 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while spreading the ball evenly to the team’s top pass catchers.
You may argue that the quality performances came against poor defenses, but Mertz seems to have turned a corner. He wasn’t putting up those numbers against bad opponents over the first half of the season; now he is. Throwing less often but more efficiently, he has the Badgers on a 6-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s game against Nebraska. It would be highly questionable to bring in a new quarterback when the starter is playing the best ball of his young career and the team has the inside track to the B1G West title.
Stabilize the QB room
It still remains a bit murky what the communication was between the coaching staff and Jack Coan during the 2020 season and shortly thereafter. However, it seems clear the Badgers’ decision-makers were ready to give the keys of the offense to Mertz, the highly ranked prospect out of high school who had scholarship offers from the best programs in the country.
If Wisconsin decided to bring in one of the sport’s top quarterback transfers, that would put Mertz into a similar position as Coan found himself in. With how quickly players turn to the portal — Wisconsin has seen 5 players enter in less than a month — maybe the Badgers would lose Mertz.
Would Paul Chryst choose to move on from the starting quarterback 2 years in a row? It would have to be for a proven starter with multiple years of eligibility remaining, and I’m not sure how much of an upgrade there would be over Mertz, especially after how well he has been playing recently. This is his third year in the program, and he seems to have developed a solid presence as one of the leaders of the team.
Who is available?
Given that Wisconsin brands itself and relies on the development of its players in addition to the unlikelihood Mertz would leave the team, there is a very high chance he is the starting quarterback in 2022. However, if there is an injury or a complete meltdown in the passing game, there are a few interesting names out there if the coaching staff indeed does a little exploring in the transfer portal quarterback market.
One of the top options available right now is former LSU quarterback Myles Brennan, who caught some bad breaks over his career, including injuries. Wisconsin was among the schools that offered him out of high school, but he has just 1 year of eligibility remaining. Some other top-rated quarterbacks in the portal include Baylor’s Jacob Zeno, Tennessee’s Harrison Bailey and Florida State’s Chubba Purdy. But it does not appear any of them were heavily recruited by the Badgers, making it likely Mertz will lead Wisconsin onto the field to start the 2022 season.