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Wisconsin spring football: quarterback position overview

A look at where the quarterback room stands following spring football for the Wisconsin Badgers.
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The Wisconsin Badgers officially concluded spring camp last Friday night and now head into the summer months preparing for the fall.

While spring football is generally a time for self-improvement and overall development, the 15 extra practices also provide players the opportunity to step up and show the coaching staff that they warrant playing time come fall.

While the Badgers were confined to the McClain Center with ongoing renovations to Camp Randall, the offense was able to lay the foundation with new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram and multiple new position coaches on the staff.

Over the next two weeks, All Badgers will take a position-by-position look at some of the general takeaways from the spring and what it could mean for each position group come fall. 

First, we take a look at the all-important quarterback position.

Overall, the spring was an up and down affair for the Wisconsin quarterbacks.

Head coach Paul Chryst said it best during Thursday's press conference by stating, "throughout spring, there were times and days where it was good, and I thought there were [times] you say that can't be."

Returning starter Graham Mertz worked closely with graduate assistant Kelly Chryst this spring and new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram.

Quarterback Graham Mertz worked closely with graduate assistant Kelly Chryst and new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram this spring as the first-team quarterback. 

Returning starter Graham Mertz took basically all of the reps with the first-team offense, and his overall play mirrored what we have seen in his previous 19 starts under center. Mertz flashed at times with impressive throws but would also have moments where he overthrew receivers or made a wrong decision.

Entering his redshirt junior season, Mertz entered and exited the spring as the definitive starter, but I think the hope has to be that he uses the summer months to continue to improve.

In defense of Mertz, he worked with an entirely new wide receiver corps, his third quarterback coach in three seasons, a brand new offensive coordinator, and against Wisconsin's first-team defense most of the spring.

One area I do believe Mertz took a significant step this spring was his willingness to push the ball down the field and trust his receivers to win one-on-one opportunities. We will see if that continues next fall and if it results in more chunk plays.

The junior signal-caller dropped some weight from a year ago to get in even better shape and he does everything correct off the field to be a great quarterback. This summer will be big for Mertz to continue to refine his game and further improve timing with receivers.

Wisconsin does not need the former four-star prospect to be an All-American to have an excellent offense next season with Braelon Allen in the backfield. Instead, Mertz needs to focus on the little things and be a more consistent quarterback that minimizes mistakes. Based on this spring, I believe that is possible for him, but consistency is the key. 

Behind Mertz throughout spring was redshirt senior quarterback Chase Wolf.

Wolf took the majority of reps with the second-team offense and closed the spring on a high note by stringing together some solid practices.

The Ohio native threw several deep touchdowns and led multiple touchdown drives during the last two weeks, albeit against the second-team defense and a pair of walk-on safeties. Overall, I think that Wolf proved that he could be a more reliable backup option than he was a season ago.

Interceptions were still an issue for Wolf at times this spring though, and ultimately it seems like there remains a gap between him and Mertz at the top of the depth chart.

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Reserve quarterbacks Myles Burkett and Chase Wolf.

Chase Wolf (No. 2) and Myles Burkett (No. 16) throwing during individual drills. 

Beyond Mertz and Wolf, redshirt freshman Deacon Hill also earned reps with the second team.

Taking part in his first spring with the Badgers, Hill is still developing as a quarterback, but he has a live arm. A former three-star prospect out of California, Hill made a handful of throws this spring that were incredibly impressive. However, he is also still inaccurate at times, has a tendency to throw the ball too hard in situations, and needs better control of the offense in general.

Hill did look much more comfortable this spring than last fall when he focused on receiving snaps under center and his footwork with handoffs in the practices I saw.

I believe the biggest takeaway from the spring for Hill is that he showed flashes that he could be a starting option down the line if he continues to develop.

True freshman Myles Burkett also earned reps this spring, and I thought he acquitted himself well for an early enrollee.

He did not receive a ton of live team opportunities in the practices I attended, but he did not look out of place, which is always the worry for a young player who would traditionally be finishing his senior year of high school.

This spring was a great learning opportunity for Burkett that I think should prove beneficial down the road for both his maturation and the overall health of the quarterback room. 

I think it will be fun to watch Burkett and Hill battle it out in the coming years because they bring very different skillsets to the position and are talented options that need time to develop.

Quarterback room at a glance...

Position coaches: OC/QB coach Bobby Engram, graduate assistant Keller Chryst

Projected depth chart:

  1. Graham Mertz (RS Junior)
  2. Chase Wolf (RS Senior)
  3. Deacon Hill (RS Freshman)
  4. Myles Burkett (Freshman)

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