Florida names Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz as starting QB

Graham Mertz didn’t work out for Wisconsin, but Florida is now giving him a shot.

Gators head coach Billy Napier confirmed to reporters on Friday that Mertz will be the starting quarterback against Utah in Week 1, confirming what had been expected by many when the redshirt junior landed in Gainesville.

Florida will face the Utes on Aug. 31.

To win the starting job, Mertz had to beat out the likes of Jack Miller III and Max Brown. Miller got the start in the Las Vegas Bowl last year after Anthony Richardson left early for the NFL Draft, where he was picked fourth overall, but didn’t do much with the opportunity — he went 13-of-22 with 180 passing yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-3 loss to Oregon State.

It was no wonder Mertz picked Florida as his destination with its lack of options in Richardson’s wake, and training camp reports from as early as spring ball made it sound like he was the heir apparent. The only question is if Florida is expecting a different Graham Mertz than the one seen in Wisconsin, where his tenure ended with the Badgers wiping the slate clean by firing Paul Chryst and hiring Luke Fickell from Cincinnati.

Will Florida Graham Mertz be any better than Wisconsin Graham Mertz?

Mertz entered Wisconsin as the highest-rated quarterback recruit in the program’s history and compounded the hype by going a ridiculous 20-for-21 with 248 passing yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions against Illinois in his debut as a starter in 2020.

At that point, Mertz was a redshirt freshman and looked like the quarterback Wisconsin fans had been waiting for since the days of Russell Wilson. Mertz tested positive for COVID-19 the next day and, well, let’s just say he never reached that peak again.

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - APRIL 13: Graham Mertz #15 looks on during the second half of the Florida Gators spring football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on April 13, 2023 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Florida is betting on a big leap made by Graham Mertz, just like Wisconsin did. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Mertz finished his Wisconsin career with 5,405 passing yards, a 59.5% completion rate, 38 passing touchdowns and 26 interceptions. The Badgers bet everything on him leading them to the next level and were rewarded with a 19-13 record with him as a starter.

There were absolutely moments Mertz flashed like a Playoff-caliber passer, but too many bad decisions and misfires made him an infuriating quarterback to watch. Now, he’ll replace Richardson, another quarterback with inconsistency issues, while Florida hopes that Napier can work some magic that just wasn’t available in the Big Ten.

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