2019 Wisconsin Rewind: Quarterbacks
The 2019 college football season has officially passed for the Wisconsin Badgers after falling to the No. 6 Oregon Ducks on Jan. 1 in the 2020 Rose Bowl Game.
AllBadgers.com presents a new series, "2019 Wisconsin Rewind," that will break down each UW position group from last season. Positional stats, best and worst performances will be dissected, along with one question for each room heading into spring ball later this year.
We kick it off with the quarterbacks, as junior Jack Coan asserted himself into the starting spot during fall camp and helped lead the offense to success to the tune of 34.1 points per game, 433.2 yards per game, and 48% on third down conversions. When speaking with reporters on Dec. 19, the Long Island native believes his confidence level had not changed too much from a year prior during 2018’s Pinstripe Bowl preparation.
"I think I've always been pretty confident in my abilities and abilities of the guys around me," Coan said. "I definitely feel, I'd say, maybe a little more comfortable because just how I played and how I progressed in the offense."
In offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph's eyes, Coan has "had a complete season."
"He's battled through things, he's battled through injuries," Rudolph said on Dec. 27 during Rose Bowl availability. "He's had games where everyone loved him. He's had games where he wished he had done better, and I think that's what a season's all about. You learn about guys, who they are as people and leaders and are they steady? Are they going to be focused? Are they able to take things and grow from them, and are they able to handle successes and still have the same approach they've had before?
"Man, he's a steady, steady dude, and I think this team really appreciates that about him. That's probably where I've seen him grow the most. And I think from that steadiness, I think his confidence has continued to grow. He realized he can be himself, and being himself can take him to some high levels."
- Jack Coan (14 games): 69.6 completion percentage, 2,727 yards, 18 touchdowns, five interceptions, 151.76 efficiency
- Graham Mertz (two games): 90.0 completion percentage (nine of 10), 73 yards, 151.32 efficiency
- Chase Wolf (three games): Completed one pass for two yards
The team overall averaged 200.1 yards per game through the air.
Statistically, Coan completed nearly 79% of his passes for a career-high 363 yards -- fifth most in single-game school history -- and three touchdowns in UW's second non-conference win against Central Michigan in September.
The junior signal caller threw for over 200 yards six times during the 2019 season, but perhaps his best outing came on the road in the pseudo snow globe known as TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 30. With the Big Ten West division title on the line and wintry conditions enveloping the field, he completed 15 of 22 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns in Wisconsin's 38-17 win over Minnesota.
He hit running back Jonathan Taylor for a go-ahead 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter, then proceeded to gash the Gophers' defense for completions of 31 and 47 yards to redshirt junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus -- the latter for six points -- on UW's first drive after halftime.
Wisconsin threw a variety of looks at Minnesota that included a very competent screen game. In the fourth quarter after a key fourth down stand by the defense, Coan found running back Garrett Groshek for a 70-yard gain down to the Minnesota 12-yard line. Taylor ran it in from 11 yards out the next play to make it a 31-10 advantage.
The close home win against Northwestern appeared to be a rough outing for Coan -- 15 of 24 passing for 113 yards with his first interception of the 2019 season -- but AllBadgers.com will look at the first contest against Ohio State on Oct. 26.
Future Top 5 NFL Draft pick Chase Young dominated the line of scrimmage to the tune of four sacks and five tackles for loss overall. With pressure abound and in a tough road environment, Coan completed just 10 of 17 throws for 108 yards with UW's lone touchdown, a 26-yard pass to A.J. Taylor early in the third quarter.
Question for 2020 season: How does competition shape the room starting in the spring?
Video above: Jack Coan speaking with reporters on Dec. 19
Coan simply did not play par for the course during fall camp sessions open to the media. What he did during that time carried over into the season where he threw the ball accurately and down the field to keep defenses honest, clamped down on turnovers, and he helped lead the offense to points on the scoreboard.
The question will now focus on who can or will catch up to Coan beginning with spring ball. From the outside looking in, that starts with Graham Mertz, the former four-star prep standout who redshirted this past season after enrolling last January. He rose up to co-backup status on the Wisconsin depth chart, and when given reps during mop up time in the couple of contests he played in, he passed the eye test with an accurate arm and marched the offense down the field as well.
Rudolph acknowledged last week that Coan "was a little bit banged up" for a couple of games this season but Mertz "just did an outstanding job of preparing." The latter mentioned on Rose Bowl Media Day that he wanted to master protection schemes heading into the offseason. Come March and April, then into fall camp, will he show more development and the necessary results to push for playing time or overtake Coan in his second season at UW?
There is also Chase Wolf, who showed a strong arm and the best mobility in assistant Jon Budmayr's room -- the closest thing UW has to what could be called a dual-threat quarterback. Can the Cincinnati native, who will enter his redshirt sophomore campaign, make some waves in 2020 as well?