Florida football: Graham Mertz named Gators starting quarterback in long-expected move

By OnlyGators.com Staff
August 11, 2023
Florida football: Graham Mertz named Gators starting quarterback in long-expected move

Image Credit: UAA

If there was any question as to who QB1 would be for the Florida Gators entering the 2023 season, head coach Billy Napier ended that conversation Friday. Redshirt junior Graham Mertz, a three-year starter at Wisconsin before transferring to Florida offseason, was tabbed to lead the Gators in the upcoming campaign.

While the move was expected literally the moment Mertz committed to join Florida out of the transfer portal, Napier explained his decision making process Friday following the team’s first scrimmage of the preseason.

“We’ve seen enough,” Napier said Friday of the quarterback competition. “The big thing I’ve been impressed with is his ability to come in and learn the system, translate what he knows and apply that to our system. [He’s] relentless in approach, [has] probably worked as hard as any player on our team — probably as hard as a lot of players that I’ve been around in terms of the unseen hours. …

“Graham’s done a great job, and he’s worked from the minute he pulled up in the parking lot. … He’s continued to work to improve, so been [I’ve been] very pleased in that regard.”

Mertz is certainly not going to be a barn-burner for the Gators, which can only hope he provides capable game management out of the sport’s most important position. As a three-year starter for the Badgers, he went 19-13 completing 59% of his passes and averaging around 7 yards per completion with 38 touchdowns to 26 interceptions.

  • 2020: 61.1%, 1,238 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT
  • 2021: 59.5%, 1,958 yards, 10 TD, 11 INT
  • 2021: 57.3%, 2,136 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT

Sacks were an issue at Wisconsin, a notable issue given the team deployed such a run-heavy offense. However, the Badgers had significant injuries to its offensive front, and Mertz himself was banged up throughout the 2022 season. Beyond his seeming lack of passing talent, Mertz is neither a dual-threat QB nor a willing runner; he has -65 yards rushing over the last two seasons due to those sacks.

Mertz, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is largely a stop gap at the position, which needed a starter due to a confluence of mostly unforeseen circumstances, including the (expected) departure of Anthony Richardson to the NFL, the sudden dismissal of Jalen Kitna and the post-signing decommitment of four-star signee Jalen Rashada.

With Mertz now officially set as a starter, eyes turn to the backup quarterback role where redshirt freshman Max Brown appears to be outplaying redshirt sophomore Jack Miller, who has been largely unimpressive since joining the program from Ohio State. There is no indication yet that Brown is set to win the backup job over Miller, but if their play continues trending as it has been over the last few weeks, that may come to pass before the season begins.

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