Florida football: Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz joins Gators out of transfer portal

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 21, 2022
Florida football: Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz joins Gators out of transfer portal

Image Credit: UAA / Chris Kim

With 2022 starter Anthony Richardson declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft as a potential first-round pick after his sophomore season, building a quarterback room has been priority No. 1 for the Florida Gators. Head coach Billy Napier has done an excellent job securing the future with commitments from five-star 2023 QB signee Jaden Rashada (Pittsburg, CA) and five-star 2024 QB D.J. Lagway (Willis, TX), but the Gators are attempting to prevent themselves from entering next season in a hole given it is rare for a true freshman to start at the game’s most important position.

Florida has briefly been connected to a number of veteran quarterbacks either in the transfer portal or considering entering it with some clearly having higher ceilings than others. In fact, out of all the signal callers mentioned, there was only one who appeared to be an ill fit for the Gators.

And that is the quarterback who will be transferring into the program as Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz announced Wednesday that he will continue his career at Florida.

Mertz, who played the best game of his career in his first start for the Badgers back in 2020, has been on a downward spiral since. He’s completed just 59.5% of his passes for 5,405 yards, 38 touchdowns and 26 interceptions across three seasons as Wisconsin’s starter with his completion rate declining in each campaign.

  • 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

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 sacks. Mertz, who has two years of eligibility remaining and took an unofficial visit to UF last week, put up these statistics as an inaccurate pocket passer playing in a run-first Wisconsin offense.

Simply put, this is a baffling acquisition for the Gators. Mertz is ranked 117th in the 247Sports transfer portal ratings, 19th among quarterbacks.

Florida was recently called a “serious contender” for star Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall by On3; however, it is possible that academic complications arose in a potential transfer, if the strength of that pursuit was legitimate. (Sources told OnlyGators.com there was at least mutual interest between the parties.) Other names had been connected to UF but without any definitive information.

Despite the Gators having exceptionally talented quarterbacks committed for the next two recruiting cycles, it is not a common occurrence for a true freshman to start for a Power Five program, particularly in the SEC. It is possible that Rashada is ready for Week 1, but the ideal scenario for Florida would have been to acquire a quarterback to start in 2023 with Rashada getting one year of collegiate seasoning.

The Gators needed to add a quarterback from the transfer portal this cycle. In addition to Richardson’s draft departure, backup Jalen Kitna was dismissed, and redshirt freshman Jack Miller III, who made his first career start in the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl, inspired little confidence that he was prepared for the job next season.

“There’s no question we anticipate adding a player in that room through the portal,” Napier said earlier Wednesday. “We like to definitely have four scholarship players. We do intend to add a preferred walk-on as well in that room to give us five players for the spring and next year and really feel good about that situation.” So all those guys will be able to be here for the entire off-season program, which will be a big deal. But definitely anticipate taking another player.”

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