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Wisconsin football 2020 fall practice position preview: quarterback

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In our final position preview, it’s time to talk quarterbacks.

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

Look, we don’t know if there is going to be college football this fall but until we know for sure that there isn’t, we are going to treat this off-season like any other and get you prepared for the 2020 season. Here are our thoughts on each position group before spring practice started and then, uh, got canceled to get you fully up to speed.

Since, to be quite honest, not a whole lot has changed since we wrote the spring previews we’ll be adding a couple of different elements to these previews. We’ll take our best guesses at how the depth chart for each position group will look this fall and we’ll also take a look at a potential breakout player for the 2021 season (in case you haven’t had your Graham Mertz fix in a few months).


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

Returning players:

  • Jack Coan, quarterback, 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, senior
  • Danny Vanden Boom, quarterback, 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, redshirt junior
  • Chase Wolf, quarterback, 6-foot-1, 194 pounds, redshirt sophomore
  • Graham Mertz, quarterback, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, redshirt freshman

Departing players: N/A

Incoming players: Daniel Wright, quarterback, 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, freshman (walk-on)

QB Depth Chart

Role Player Position Year Games started
Role Player Position Year Games started
Starter Jack Coan QB SR 17
Backup Graham Mertz QB RS FR 0
Backup Chase Wolf QB RS SO 0
Backup Danny Vanden Boom QB RS JR 0

Position breakdown and depth chart: Ladies and gentleman, the moment you’ve all been waiting for is here. It’s time to talk about the quarterback room. The good thing is that all the same names for this room are back from 2019, which should give the Badgers plenty of depth at the position. Trouble is, you can only play one at a time and each and every Badger fan has an opinion on which one should be on the field in 2020, so lets start from the top.

Jack Coan comes in as a senior after a very solid junior campaign. As the full time starter in 2019, Coan completed 70% of his passes while throwing for 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. That stat line, especially by Wisconsin quarterback standards, is good. Some might even say very good, some might say they’d like to see more. There are a few different ways you can slice those numbers but at the end of the day that is a solid junior season and will likely earn Jack Coan QB1 reps in 2020.

Currently chasing him is, of course, the highly talented Graham Mertz who comes in as the Badgers highest rated quarterback recruit of all time. We saw a limited sample size from Mertz in 2019, where he completed 9-of-10 passes in game action. The coaching staff really hoped to see progress as the season went on, and by all accounts it sounded like Mertz really blossomed, enough so that he appeared to be a guy that could push for the starting job this spring.

Central Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After those two are two other quarterbacks in Chase Wolf and Danny Vanden Boom. Wolf, a redshirt sophomore, has also shown some flashes that he could play at the college level. His height for a QB is shorter than the others, and the delivery is a little funky, but overall Wolf is a guy that seems to be able to come into a game and keep you in a ballgame which is important as the probable QB3 in a doomsday type scenario. After that is in-state talent Danny Vanden Boom who had a tremendous amount of success as the high school level and possesses a strong IQ and throwing arm.

Now that we’ve laid out of the four quarterbacks it’s time to talk about what is going to happen in 2020. As it sits right now, Coan is your starter and I think it is silly to believe anything other than that as we head into Week 1. With the lack of spring football and the great unknown that is this season I think that is a given.

However, I do think the results on the field will dictate the way the QB direction goes. If Coan comes out and plays the same version or slightly better role of himself and the Badgers win football games I would not expect to see anything different. BUT, if the offense is not clicking, and the Badgers drop a game they shouldn’t in a fairly easy schedule, I think the options begin to be weighed and revaluations might happen. We’ve seen Paul Chryst trust his starter before, but we’ve also seen him make a switch if needed. On field results outlining who plays is always a good and fair option in my book, and probably the likely outcome in 2020.

Potential breakout player for 2021: Let’s not beat around the bush here, if there is a player that is has the potential to breakout in 2021 it’s Graham Mertz. We all know the recruiting accolades, the offers he turned down to go to Wisconsin, and the talent that he possesses. With 2020 being one giant question mark, Mertz will be an interesting storyline for the entire season. He no longer has the redshirt to worry about, so Mertz can be worked into as many games as the staff sees fit.

That will be an interesting option to ponder as the Badgers work their way along this season and into 2021. I would fully expect to see a much bigger dose of Mertz in 2020, which should set him up to have real game experience to take over the starting role in 2021. I know Badger fans are growing impatient and wanting to see Mertz on the field, but development in a quarterback is important and I think this year will really allow him to progress at his own speed.