Former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz announced Wednesday that he is transferring to Florida after four seasons with the Badgers. The move comes as the Gators found themselves in need of a proven player at the position after Anthony Richardson's decision to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft following his sophomore season.
Mertz is expected to have two seasons of eligibility remaining after throwing for 5,405 yards, 38 touchdowns and 26 interceptions during his time with the Badgers. The former four-star prospect served as Wisconsin's primary starter for the past three seasons with mixed results. The program posted a 19-13 record over that span, and he announced on Dec. 4 that he planned to transfer amid the program's coaching transition to Luke Fickell.
Wisconsin ranked 112th, 120th and 108th in passing offense over the past three seasons as the program prioritized its run-heavy, defensive-oriented style during Mertz's tenure. Florida was not pass-happy in its first season under coach Billy Napier with a dynamic playmaker in Richardson at quarterback and solid young running backs Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne. However, the Gators threw more frequently than Wisconsin and want to throw even more.
Bringing Mertz in at quarterback is a curious decision, but it is not likely to spark a philosophy for the Gators at the position. While Richardson could frustrate with his inaccuracy at times, his elite running ability gave opposing defenses fits. Mertz, on the other hand, has -21 rushing yards in his career and is the definition of a traditional pocket passer. His career 59.5% completion rate is an upgrade over Richardson's 54.7% mark but only barely.
Florida's QB situation
Though Mertz should have a leg up in the battle as a seasoned veteran of Power Five football, there will be some stiff competition for the job. Five-star quarterback prospect Jaden Rashada signed to the Gators on Wednesday and is the team's signal caller of the future. The Pittsburg, California, product is ranked the No. 29 overall prospect in the Class of 2023 by 247Sports and appears to have a bright future.
Former four-star prospect Jack Miller III, an Ohio State transfer, is also on the team's 2022 roster. He made his first collegiate start and saw his first action for Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl where UF managed just a field goal. If nothing else, Mertz is an insurance policy at quarterback for the Gators in case the staff does not feel comfortable rushing Rashada's development by playing him right away.
The commitment of Mertz to Florida continues the game of quarterback dominoes played during this recruiting cycle. Mertz was first linked to Kentucky, but the Wildcats landed a commitment from former NC State quarterback Devin Leary. Former Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall also reportedly emerged as a potential option for the Gators. Ultimately, with Mertz, Florida emerged with a seasoned but underwhelming veteran.
Other transfer quarterbacks such as Leary or Virginia's Brennan Armstrong might have inspired more excitement among Florida fans. But Mertz helps solidify the position for Napier and should be a nice cushion at the position as Rashada adjusts to the college game.