The amount of success the Wisconsin Badgers will have this season will largely depend on their quarterback. After the Badgers failed to get Caleb Williams, Graham Mertz will be the one under center in 2022. He’ll be the undisputed starter once again this season as the quarterbacks behind him aren’t ready to challenge him. This spring Mertz needs to put what was an uneven season in 2021 behind him.
Going into the 2021 season, Graham Mertz had even more hype than he did in 2020. To say that Graham Mertz struggled in 2021 is an understatement. Early in the year, Mertz threw seven interceptions to just two touchdowns. This included a four-interception meltdown against Notre Dame. His early season struggles were part of the reason why the Badgers got off to a 1-3 start. During the season, it got to the point where Wisconsin tried to take the ball out of his hands. Mertz would finish the 2021 season with 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.
However, at various points during the season, Mertz played reasonably well. During the Badgers seven game win streak, Mertz tossed seven touchdown passes to just three interceptions. Mertz also proved he could bounce back from a tough loss as well and make big plays when called upon. This was evident in the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona State. In that game, Mertz turned in an efficient performance. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His biggest play of the game came on third and long when he completed a 30-yard pass for a first down. This ultimately won the game for the Badgers.
Heading into the 2022 season, Mertz will be losing experienced receivers in Kendric Pryor, Danny Davis, and Jack Dunn. He will also be losing his favorite target Jake Ferguson to the NFL Draft. His new receiving corps will be Chimere Dike, Markus Allen, Skyler Bell, and transfer portal pickup Keontez Lewis. He will also have a new tight end to throw to as well. Mertz and Dike have familiarity with each other having been on the field together for the past two years. Mertz also got a little taste of what Markus Allen can do and even Skyler Bell in the bowl game. However, developing chemistry with his entire new arsenal will be paramount for success in 2022.
If Mertz goes down, Chase Wolf returns to be his backup. Wolf has appeared in 10 games and thrown 25 passes in his career at Wisconsin including two touchdowns and four interceptions. In 2021, the Badgers got an extended look at Wolf against Michigan when Graham Mertz got hurt. In that game, Wolf completed three of eight passes for 52 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Deacon Hill returns for his sophomore year. Hill has yet to see action, but he brings so much upside to the position. I believe that Wolf has hit his ceiling as a quarterback and Hill could challenge him to be Mertz’s backup. Mertz passed Wolf in 2019 to be then starter Jack Coan’s backup and I can see the same thing happening in 2022.
The only quarterback departing from the team for graduation is Danny Vanden Boom who only threw one pass in his career. In the offseason, the Badgers recruited local prospect Myles Burkett as part of their 2022 recruiting class. However, Burkett is likely to redshirt as most of the freshmen do at Wisconsin. He’ll need to learn the playbook first and develop more before he can even think about competing for playing time. It should be noted that a true freshman has never started at quarterback under Paul Chryst.