Graham Mertz – Mission, KS (Blue Valley North)
It’s safe to say that no quarterback recruit in Wisconsin history will arrive in Madison with as much hype and as many expectations on his shoulders as Graham Mertz.
This is largely because Mertz is a 4-star prospect and the nation’s No. 4 pro-style signal caller, and also happens to be the highest-rated commit at his position for the Badgers in the recruiting rankings era. However, he will also begin his Wisconsin career at a time when the team’s quarterback play has been downright awful.
It was a wild recruiting process for Mertz, as well as for all the many Badgers fans who followed it closely.
Paul Chryst and his staff were way ahead of the pack in identifying Mertz’s talent and prioritizing him on their recruiting board. When he gave his pledge to Wisconsin last October, the only other offers he had to his name were from Minnesota and Kansas, but boy did that change shortly after his commitment.
In short, Mertz absolutely blew up. In the end, he could have had his pick of almost any program in the country. Some of the powerhouses that came after the Wisconsin commit were Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M. As a result, many Badgers fans, including myself, expected him to back off of his pledge to Wisconsin and re-evaluate his options.
Luckily, Mertz put those fears to rest in June. With one tweet, the All-American and future face of Wisconsin Football informed the world that after considering his options, he was going to hold true to his pledge. Since then, he has been steadfast in that commitment and one of this class’ most vocal recruiters.
The long journey is now over, as Mertz made it official earlier this morning by signing his National Letter of Intent to play for the Badgers. He is just a couple of weeks away from beginning his college career in Madison as an early enrollee, at which point he will begin the arduous process of learning Paul Chryst’s pro-style offense.
The future for Mertz and the Wisconsin offense under him is bright indeed, but I would not anticipate him coming in and snagging the starting job immediately. He has plenty of work to do to adapt to working under center in a pro-style offense, as he spent most of his high school career in the shotgun. While I do expect a competition at quarterback in the spring and later in the fall, I anticipate that it will be the experience of Alex Hornibrook and Jack Coan that will separate them early from Mertz, Chase Wolf, and Danny Vanden Boom.
However, look for Mertz do be ready to compete in earnest for the top job come his second year in the program, and once he gets the keys to the car, I truly believe this offense will soar to new heights. It’s way too early to be predicting such things, but Mertz looks capable of becoming the greatest Wisconsin quarterback since Russell Wilson and becoming an NFL draft pick. Indeed, 247Sports predicts that he will be a 5th round selection when his time comes.