Last football offseason we went through every single player on the Wisconsin Badgers roster. While it was certainly interesting to dig into some of the lesser known players, there were a lot of players where, well to put it politely there just wasn’t a lot to say about every player on the team.
This offseason we decided to go in a bit of a different direction and now each writer (who wanted to participate) has picked one player that they think is going to breakout this year in Madison. We are using “breakout” in the broadest sense so that this isn’t all guys buried on the depth chart. To us, “breakout” means taking the next step in your career and reaching the next level.
You’ll find many names you are already familiar with, and so without further ado, let’s get into our next one.
Player name: Graham Mertz
Year: true junior (we use the official listing from UWBadgers.com’s roster which doesn’t take into account the COVID year until the player takes it)
2020 stats: 118-for-193 (61%). 1,238 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions
2021 breakout reasons: I’ll be honest, I’ve been called a Graham Mertz apologist multiple times, so I really wanted to choose another player but my gut continues to tell me that Graham Mertz is going to breakout in a big way in 2021 after a season that started hot in and fell off shortly after. Part of that struggle was on Graham Mertz, and I think he would be the first to admit that, but another part of that struggle was due to a lot of outside factors.
We can talk about the fact that there was a pandemic, or that there were injuries to multiple key position players. Or we can talk about the fact that Mertz himself had to battle through COVID and a shoulder injury. Or we can talk about the offensive play calling being so inept that Mertz had to run to the sidelines every play just to get the play call. Or we can just say it’s water under the bridge and punt on all of 2020.
Graham Mertz continues to look comfortable pushing the ball down field and attacking the middle as well. Connected with AJ Abbott here who has stood out all spring so far for the #Badgers @ajabbott81 | @GrahamMertz5 | @nbc15_madison pic.twitter.com/rXyCWLbixL— George Balekji (@GeorgeBalekji) April 17, 2021
However you want to approach it, I think Graham Mertz is due for a huge year. I think 2020 put him through a lot of adversity, something that he may not have faced all that much in his high school career when he lit the state of Kansas on fire. Now he comes back with a chip on his shoulder and I think that should propel him to another level. Additionally, he should be back and fully healthy along with the likes of Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor to bolster the wideout room.
On top of that, Mertz should really benefit from a full spring season working with Paul Chryst who took over as the quarterback's coach and will resume play-calling duties after a disastrous 2020 offensive output. Chryst has played the position and knows the position. From all accounts, it sounds like the two have worked really well together to allow Mertz to take the next step in maturation as a young quarterback. I think all of those duties being under Chryst’s umbrella should help Mertz and the entire quarterback room get better.
Overall, we know the talent is there. We know he has the touch and the arm strength, now it is about putting that together with the mental side of the game. We’ve seen what it looks like when he does, and I believe that with all the other factors cleaned up that Mertz should have a great year for the Badgers this fall.
You want a spicy take? I think Mertz will have such a good year that he will be the first team All-Big Ten quarterback this fall. The revenge tour starts now, haters.