MADISON, Wis. – The Graham Mertz era is over, at least at the University of Wisconsin.
Mertz announced on Twitter on Sunday that he plans to enter the transfer portal, which opens on Monday for a span of 45 days.
The announcement came as UW coach Luke Fickell was on a Zoom call with reporters for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 27 in Phoenix.
“Had lots of conversations with Graham,” said Fickell, who was driving to Chicago during the call. “Had some conversations with his family as well. It is a tough situation and he knows that.
“We want nothing but the best for him… Encouraged him to stick around here to wait and see how the changes go. But I think at some point in time some of those guys feel like that’s something they need to do.
“That’s not what I encouraged him to do. But I also respect that and we’ve got to continue to move forward in all that we’re doing.”
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Mertz’s departure leaves UW with three quarterbacks for the bowl game against Oklahoma State – Chase Wolf, Myles Burkett and walk-on Marshall Howe.
Wolf missed most of the season after suffering a knee injury in late August. He has played in two games and has completed 2 of 6 passes for 21 yards.
Burkett, a graduate of Franklin High School, has also played in two games. He has completed 4 of 5 passes for 84 yards.
Howe has not played this season.
Mertz is in his fourth year in the program. He has started 32 games and has played under three offensive coordinators – Paul Chryst, Joe Rudolph and Bobby Engram.
He entered the season having completed 60.8% of his attempts for 3,756 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
His completion rate this season slipped to 57.3% but he has passed for 2,130 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
However, in the last four games he has completed just 45 of 98 attempts (45.9%) for 506 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Fickell, who plans to coach in the bowl game in some capacity, must evaluate the remain quarterbacks thoroughly.
“That is another one of those unique things where we’ve got another opportunity in this bowl practice to find out what we’re really got and have had behind him,” he said. “That’s what we’ll do.”
UW has an oral commitment for the 2023 class from one quarterback — Cole LaCrue from Colorado. That offer was extended when Jim Leonhard was interim head coach but LaCrue, an effective runner as well as a passer, still plans to sign with UW and enroll in January.
Look for Fickell and his staff to search for at least one more quarterback, perhaps through the transfer portal
“I think that roster management at the quarterback position completely changed in the last year-and-a-half,” he said, referring to the transfer portal. “I’ve known that, whether I was at Cincinnati or at Wisconsin. You’re going to have to take some chances on some transfers. You’ve just got to figure out at what level you want to do that.
“Do you want to take older guys or do you want to take younger guys? Because our philosophy has always been to take younger guys that you can develop. If you believe in your coaches and how they develop guys, you don’t want to get stuck in that rut of taking older guys because you really don’t get that opportunity to develop them as much.
“The quarterback position has always been unique. But I think with where we are and what is out there today, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep a really deep room and really create a lot of that development.
“As a new guy at a new program we’re going to have to do what’s best for the program. I can tell you this: Competition is what we’re going to have to focus on.”
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Graham Mertz to transfer leaving Wisconsin Badgers with 3 quarterbacks