Jack Coan: Senior, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, No. 17
Danny Vanden Boom: Junior (RS), 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, No. 15
Chase Wolf: Sophomore (RS), 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, No. 2
Graham Mertz: Freshman (RS), 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, No. 5
Daniel Wright: Freshman (PWO), 6-foot-7, 215 pounds
Well, well, well the day is finally here. Yes, spring ball is right around the corner which means it’s time to start taking a look at each position starting with the hotly contested quarterback spot. If you traveled the great state of Wisconsin and asked who should be under center for the Wisconsin Badgers next fall you would get a wide range of answers and reasons why. Everyone has an opinion about who should be taking those snaps, and most times they are not afraid to tell you why.
The nice thing for this group though is that they are experienced. As you see above, there are no departing players from the quarterback room and only one newly arriving face. With a roster that has seen some turnover in other places, you won’t have it at quarterback. Coming into the 2020 season the Badgers depth chart fills out nicely with one senior, one junior, one sophomore, and one freshman (presumably Wright will redshirt). However, I think this battle comes down to the two names people are most familiar with in Jack Coan and Graham Mertz, the old and the young.
How Jack Coan’s season went in 2019 probably again depends on who you ask. An optimist would say he was good and should be under center for the 2020 season, a pessimist would say he missed some critical throws and isn’t the guy, and a realist would say he had a good 2019 but it’s fair to wonder what more you can get out of the quarterback position. I lie somewhere between optimist and realist, but things can change, and the player looking to make that change is redshirt freshman Graham Mertz.
We all know the story of Mertz, coming out of high school he was the highest rated QB to ever attend Wisconsin coming to the Badgers from Overland Park, Kansas. Mertz’s redshirt season was beneficial for him as he had time to learn the playbook while working his way into some action along the way. What little we saw was great, as he was incredible efficient with the football, but we need to see it over the course in practice which is exactly what spring ball if for.
Who needs a big spring to crack the two-deep/who are you most excited to see in spring?
The debate at quarterback is a little different. Other positions you go two deep, but at quarterback there is likely only one. I believe this is a two horse race looking for that key number one spot. I think Mertz needs a big spring to crack that top spot. Whatever your opinion of Coan’s season is, he did enough to have the lead out of the gate, but not enough to promise him the job this fall.
If Mertz wants to narrow that gap, he’ll need a big spring to show that he has command of the offense and is ready to take the field. However, Coan isn’t going to just give it up. He’s performed with doubters all around him before, and he’ll look to do it again this spring. Personally, I am excited to see what jumps both guys have made in this position battle.
Who has the potential to be an all-conference performer (no players who have already made an all-conference team)?
To be completely honest, I don’t see a Wisconsin quarterback making that leap to all-conference, but I believe both guys have the skill set to get there. I would not be surprised if Wisconsin throws the ball more next fall, so the chances will certainly be available. The obvious leader of the all-conference teams will be Justin Fields of Ohio State, but after that it’s a crapshoot with guys like Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr., Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez. I don’t believe either of those three are all that strong, so whoever gets the quarterback nod could certainly surpass them and move into a second team spot with a strong 2020.
Where will this position group improve from last season?
I think this quarterback group will improve it’s experience and confidence in the quarterback. Coan had a lot of doubters coming into 2019 and for the most part he turned them down some. Surely they will be out again, but I think Coan has pretty thick skin and believes he’s the best quarterback in this program.
Additionally, Mertz has had an entire season to learn the playbook, get stronger and develop confidence. He also likely believes he’s the guy should be under center next fall. I think that confidence among them will propel and push one another as they head into spring ball. You have to have a sort of arrogance at the quarterback position, and both of them seem to possess it.
Where will this position group be worse than last season?
I think the obvious missing piece from this group is going to be Jonathan Taylor. Wait, he plays running back? Yeah, I know but JT could make up for many mistakes and come through when you needed it. He lessened the load that you needed from your quarterback. Now the running back spot is unproven, as is the center position with the departure of Tyler Biadasz, and the wide receiver position with Quintez Cephus.
This team lost their best three offensive players, so having a guy that is ready to step up and be a leader and possibly the teams top option to move the football is going to be important. Whoever is under center will not able to be a game manager, they’ll need to be the guy as these other positions develop. Like I said earlier, I think Wisconsin is going to look to throw more, which means these guys will have to be ready to take on that new role.