Wisconsin's Graham Mertz will enter the transfer portal after four years with the program, the quarterback shared on his Twitter account. Mertz started 32 games with the Badgers over the past three years, but will search for a new home following a coaching change from Paul Chryst to Luke Fickell. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Mertz was a game-changing recruit when he committed to the program in 2019. The Mission, Kansas, native ranked as the No. 65 player and No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2019, ahead of future stars like North Carolina's Sam Howell, Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa and TCU's Max Duggan. Mertz was the top-ranked quarterback recruit in Wisconsin history and trailed only All-American running back John Clay as the best offensive skill recruit in program history.
Mertz had a solid start to his career, completing 32 of 43 passes for 375 yards and seven touchdowns to beat Illinois and Michigan at the start of the pandemic-shortened season. However, Mertz struggled mightily to recapture his redshirt freshman form, regression in completion percentage each season as a starter and throwing 21 interceptions over the past two years.
Chryst's hope was having a top quarterback could add a dynamic component to the Wisconsin offense and elevate the program to the next level. Instead, Mertz's struggles ended up defining the end of the Chryst era. The Badgers hired former NFL receiver Bobby Engram to run the offense in 2022, but Chryst was fired after a disappointing 2-3 start. The Badgers averaged just 16.0 points per game against Power Five competition and ultimately lost four of Chryst's last five games against Power Five teams.
If Mertz opts out of the Badgers' matchup against Oklahoma State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, senior Chase Wolf, who has thrown just 31 career passes, would likely get the start. With Wolf slated to graduate, freshman Myles Burkett projects to be the only returning scholarship quarterback in 2023. The Badgers also hold a commitment from three-star prospect Cole LaCrue, whose only other Power Five offer is from Colorado.
Mertz's market is hard to gauge after such a high-profile regression. Minnesota recruited Mertz hard out of high school, and the Gophers could use a replacement for Tanner Morgan. Aidan O'Connell is moving on after six years at Purdue, and Mertz could benefit from a major system change. He should have countless opportunities at the Group of Five level as a high-upside reclamation project.
Wisconsin hired Fickell from Cincinnati to lead the program after Chryst's dismissal. Expect Fickell and the Badgers to be active in the transfer portal looking for a new starter in 2023. Fickell started transfer Ben Bryant at Cincinnati in 2022.