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Wisconsin football: quarterback 2019 review, 2020 preview

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How did the quarterback position look in 2019, and what might change in 2020?

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Over the next week or so, we here at B5Q are going to run through every position group on the Wisconsin Badgers football team and give you a recap of how they did in the 2019 season. In the same damn post we are also going to give you a preview of what we think 2020 is going to look like! Without further ado, here is the review/preview with a focus on the Wisconsin quarterbacks. Below you’ll find the link to all of our other reviews/previews.

2019 statistical leaders

  • Jack Coan - 236-of-339, 69% completion percentage, 2,727 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, five interceptions; four rushing touchdowns.
  • Graham Mertz - 9-of-10, 90% completion percentage, 73 passing yards.
  • Chase Wolf - 1-of-1, 100% completion percentage, two passing yards.

2020 returning statistical leaders

  • Wisconsin returns their entire quarterback room from 2019, and as of now will not be adding a scholarship quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class.

2019 quarterback overview

Jack Coan saw action in five games in 2018 as a true sophomore in place of Alex Hornibrook. After starting in four of those five games with a combined 2-2 record, Coan was the perceived front-runner in spring practice after Hornibrook decided to transfer to Florida State.

Coan competed against redshirt freshman Chase Wolf and true freshman Graham Mertz during both spring practice and fall camp, but it was fairly apparent that Coan was QB1 based on first team reps during fall practices.

In his first full season under center, Coan went on to have a great season in comparison to expectations. He averaged nearly 195 passing yards per game, and was a steady presence starting in all 14 games of the season. A major leap that Coan made from 2018 to 2019 was his command of the offense, as well as in his ability to take care of the football.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

In the previous three seasons, Wisconsin quarterbacks had particularly struggled with turnovers and mobility.

Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook combined for 10 interceptions on 322 attempts, roughly an interception every 32 throws in 2016. In 2017, Hornibrook had 15 interceptions, for an average of an interception for every 21 throws. In 2018, the position was even less effective, with Hornibrook and Coan splitting time with 14 interceptions, at almost an interception per 22 tosses. In those three seasons, the quarterback position also only accounted for one rushing score, done by Coan in 2018.

In 2019, Jack Coan completely flipped the script on those turnover numbers, and added four rushing touchdowns. Limiting turnovers were something that Jack Coan spoke about during fall camp as a goal, and he accomplished that nicely given his ratio was improved to only an interception every 68 throws.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Central Michigan at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Behind Coan, Chase Wolf and Graham Mertz each saw limited time as the listed co-backups on the depth chart. While there was an “or” designation in the weekly chart, it was apparent that Mertz was the primary player that would have been called upon in lieu of a Coan if an injury would have arisen. Luckily, Coan was healthy enough to play in each contest, allowing Mertz to preserve his redshirt status. In preparation for the Iowa game Mertz received a good chunk of the first team reps in practice while Coan was banged up, something that will only pay dividends moving forward.

2020 quarterback preview

After a solid 2019 season, Coan will be the incumbent starter coming into spring practices. This off-season will be crucial for him to continue to develop, as he will need to improve on his ability to stretch the field in the passing game, an area that he struggled with at times last season. With a lot of surrounding weapons like Quintez Cephus, A.J. Taylor, and Jonathan Taylor gone, he will be likely called upon in a bigger role with the running game unlikely to continue to steamroll at the same rate.

If Coan can make another leap this off-season, it is not out of the question for his numbers to improve, particularly his touchdown numbers. For example, Hornibrook threw 25 touchdowns in 2017. Coan is more than capable of getting into that range with a solid year. If he can continue to have a strong completion percentage around 70%, and limit turnovers, Badger fans would be ecstatic.

While I anticipate Coan will be the primary signal caller for next season, Mertz and Wolf will have another off-season to close the gap on him. Both players are very talented, and they will have an opportunity to take the reins if they put together a strong spring and fall camp.

Name to watch for 2020

GRAHAM MERTZ. Go figure.

Mertz has all of the raw talent to be a top tier Big Ten quarterback. He demonstrated his prowess in the Army All-American Game last season with his five touchdown performance, and had some highlight throws in fall camp that flashed his potential.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Many fans want to see Mertz be QB1 next season, and I do believe he will play more often in 2020. With him representing the future at the position, Wisconsin would probably like to get him on the field more often to get him ready for 2021 when he will be the likely starter. I could see a situation in which Mertz plays a couple of series a game, similar to the platoon experiment in 2016 with Bart Houston.

Paul Chryst really likes the quarterback room, and the quandary of who will play is not a bad problem to have.

2020 spring depth chart projection (2020 eligibility)

  1. Jack Coan (senior)
  2. Graham Mertz (redshirt freshman)
  3. Chase Wolf (redshirt sophomore)
  4. Danny Vanden Boom (redshirt junior)