Florida QB Graham Mertz wins starting job: What Wisconsin transfer will look like in Gators’ offense

Florida will begin its season with Graham Mertz under center, as coach Billy Napier named the Wisconsin transfer the Gators’ starting quarterback Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Mertz announced his transfer to Florida in December 2022.
  • The veteran had a 19-13 record as a starter at Wisconsin, where in 2019 he became the program’s highest-rated quarterback signee (No. 65 according to the 247Sports composite).
  • The Gators open their season against Utah at Rice–Eccles Stadium on Aug. 31.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What does this mean for Florida’s season?

Experience ultimately won out here and it’s not much of a surprise. Jack Miller, a transfer from Ohio State, had made one start and played a total of 110 snaps in college.

Mertz is hardly the runner Anthony Richardson was last year. Richardson ran for 654 yards and nine touchdowns. Mertz has eight career touchdown runs in four seasons and his longest career run is 24 yards. He’ll be a pocket passer reliant on protection and a running game to support him. — Navarro

How did Mertz reach this point?

Mertz arrived at Wisconsin as the most highly-rated high school quarterback signee for the program in the internet recruiting rankings era, and with his arrival came sky-high expectations. His combination of arm strength and talent contributed to the notion that he could be the missing piece to help the Badgers get over the hump and reach the College Football Playoffs.

He didn’t attain those heights and never led Wisconsin to the Big Ten title game, as the program struggled while he played for three offensive coordinators in three seasons. Coach Paul Chryst ultimately was fired five games into last season following a 2-3 start. Mertz’s time in Madison will be viewed as an underachievement given what was expected, but he still had productive moments and demonstrated leadership amid constant scrutiny.

Mertz’s redshirt junior campaign last season was the best of his career, when he threw for 2,136 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a co-captain. Mertz opted to transfer before Wisconsin’s bowl game for a fresh start with a new coaching staff coming into the program. His maturity, experience and leadership skills already have impressed players and coaches at Florida.

Now, he’ll have another opportunity to prove himself in a new system. — Temple


Mertz needed a reset after falling short of stratospheric expectations at Wisconsin. Expectations were fueled by recruiting rankings and his five-touchdown debut against Illinois in 2020 as a redshirt freshman. He compiled 38 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions in three years as a starter — a stretch where the Badgers began each season 18th or higher in the AP poll only to finish unranked.


Is Graham Mertz making a leap? Inside the Wisconsin QB’s improvement

Mertz finished seventh in Big Ten passing efficiency last season (135). That produced his highest individual passer rating as a starter, though the typically steady program lurched into upheaval Oct. 2 with the firing of Chryst, the eighth-year coach. It was Chryst who stuck with the redshirt freshman Mertz late in 2020 after veteran Jack Coan recovered from a foot injury.

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(Photo: James Gilbert / Getty)

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