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Wisconsin football 2020 review/2021 preview: quarterbacks

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The Graham Mertz Experience will now have a full offseason to prepare as the starting signal caller.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl - Wake Forest v Wisconsin Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

2020 starters

  • Graham Mertz (RS freshman)

2020 statistics

  • Mertz completed 118 passes on 193 attempts for 1238 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions on a 61% completion percentage. He also rushed for two touchdowns.
  • Chase Wolf completed six passes on eight attempts for 29 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on a 75% completion percentage.

2020 season review

The season started with the highest of highs - Mertz had five touchdowns and one incompletion against Illinois. Then, Mertz tested positive, and almost the entire QB room was quarantined. Nebraska and Purdue were cancelled, but Mertz was able to come back and lead the troops, in a less stellar effort, to a bludgeoning of Michigan.

After that, however, Mertz, as well as the entire offense, struggled to find any consistency moving forward. His protection wasn’t as stout as it was in those first two games, his skill talent fell by the wayside due to injury, and in a vicious cycle, the offense fell victim to ineffectiveness.

Wisconsin v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Mertz was eventually concussed in Minnesota after having three straight good plays, when the offense looked like it was primed to breakout of their 3.5 game long funk.

Chase Wolf was primarily used as a rusher, but threw two picks in eight pass attempts, so not a ton was gleaned from his playing time other than that he’s still got a ways to go.

2021 season preview

Graham Mertz showed plenty of reasons for optimism in 2020, and despite his fall from the climax of quarterback play from the Illinois game, he’ll continue to develop and improve moving forward.

Jalen Berger will be the starting running back next season. Wideout Danny Davis III is still on the fence about returning while WR Kendric Pryor and TE Jake Ferguson are both returning. The offensive line should be improved.

I fully expect Mertz to be sharper and more comfortable in 2021. Now, does that mean I expect a Heisman campaign? No (maybe), but certainly a better mix of run and pass balance will benefit the entire offense, and having a better skill position palette at his disposal will make things easier on everyone.

Chase Wolf came in and played admirably during this season, but it’s clear he’s still raw as a passer. A poor decision on a deep ball against Minnesota as well as an errant throw against Wake Forest ensured that all of his passes this seasons were caught, but two of them were caught by the wrong guys. He’ll improve and I’d look for him to be the backup in 2021 again.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Danny Vanden Boom was almost called into action before the Nebraska game was cancelled, but he provides a nice, safe floor of a third-string passer heading into 2021, where he’s not going to light the world on fire, but can execute what’s asked of him in the offense and not be turnover-prone, which is a critical skill for a reserve quarterback.