Recruiting never stops in Badgers country, and we’re here to help put it all in perspective. Join us every Tuesday and Thursday night for a recap of Wisconsin recruiting news and insight on what’s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what’s coming next.
Commitment impact of 2019 QB Graham Mertz
Graham Mertz earned his first FBS scholarship offer from Kansas before he had ever earned his first varsity start at quarterback. That’s how much talent the 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior possessed entering this season.
Mertz had been stuck at Bishop Miege High School in Kansas behind Carter Putz, a Notre Dame baseball commit who won the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year award for football last season. So when Mertz transferred to nearby Blue Valley North High School this offseason to find playing time, he figured to make a substantial leap in the eyes of college programs.
Mertz received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin on Sept. 19, took an unofficial visit there Sept. 30 and committed to the Badgers on Sunday. He becomes the second commit in Wisconsin’s 2019 class, joining linebacker Leo Chenal (Grantsburg, Wis.).
— Graham Mertz (@GrahamMertz5) October 9, 2017
Mertz had received three total scholarship offers — from Kansas, Wisconsin and Minnesota — before he committed. He was sure to collect many more given his skill set. Instead, the Badgers landed a player capable of being a special addition to the quarterback room.
“What he appreciated the most was the interaction with Wisconsin’s coaching staff,” Blue Valley North football coach Andy Sims told Land of 10. “That’s really what Graham is. He’s a relationship person.”
This season, Mertz has completed 132 of 214 passes (61.6 percent) for 1,604 yards with 23 touchdowns. He threw for 256 yards with 6 touchdowns and no interceptions in his team’s season opener and has continued to excel. He played his former school, Bishop Miege, which is the three-time defending Kansas Class 4A state champion. In that game, Mertz tallied 230 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Check out Mertz’s midseason highlights:
The highlights show a quarterback who can move around in the pocket well and deliver a rope. He has enough mobility to keep a play alive long enough to throw until his receiver gets open if something breaks down.
On his first highlight, Mertz gets great protection from his offensive line. And just as he appears to be under duress, he moves up into the pocket to avoid a tackle and launches a touchdown pass 50 yards in the air right in front of the end zone, hitting his receiver in stride.
In the second highlight, Mertz rolls to his right and throws a beautiful pass on the run down the sideline on the back shoulder to his receiver for a long gain.
He is excellent at escaping pressure, not panicking and maintaining eye contact with his receivers. His third highlight offers a great illustration of those traits. A defensive end blows by the right tackle and has a clear shot at Mertz, who steps up and delivers a touchdown pass over the middle between two defenders.
Mertz plays out of a shotgun-spread offense in high school and will have to learn how to play in Wisconsin’s pro-style, under-center offense. But that’s the same task quarterback freshman Jack Coan was able to grasp with the Badgers this season. And Mertz has every bit the talent level of Coan. In an early 247Sports rating, Mertz ranks as the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class.
“I think he’s going to be just fine,” Sims said of making the pro-style transition to Wisconsin. “High school coaches are going to run what matches their kids. In a college system, they are going to recruit the kids that give them the best chance to win in their conference. We’ve got a little bit smaller linemen, but good receivers and a D-I quarterback, so it makes sense to throw the ball a little bit. It won’t be anything for him. If you ever have aspirations to go to the NFL, why wouldn’t you want to be in a pro-style system in college?”
Wisconsin now has a run of three solid quarterbacks in the 2017-2019 classes, first with Coan, then with Chase Wolf (Cincinnati) and now with Mertz. Starter Alex Hornibrook will be a senior by the time Mertz arrives, so Mertz should have an opportunity to compete for playing time presumably with Coan and Wolf.
Jaylan Franklin’s team on a roll, more highlights from 2018 commits
Jaylan Franklin and his Gibraltar Carlson (Mich.) team are in the midst of a special season. Carlson defeated Taylor Truman 49-20 on Friday night to move to 7-0 for the first time in 20 years. According to the Southgate News Herald, the victory sets up a game of the only two unbeaten teams in the Downriver League, with Wyandotte Roosevelt playing at Gibraltar next week.
Franklin is committed to Wisconsin as a tight end but plays quarterback for his high school team. He led the team Friday with 97 rushing yards on 6 attempts — an average of 16.1 yards per carry. He completed 1 of 3 passes for 8 yards. Six different Carlson players accounted for 7 rushing touchdowns.
The Detroit Free Press published an excellent article on Franklin and Gibraltar Carlson last week before the team’s game. According to the Free Press, Franklin took over as his team’s quarterback in Week 4 last season and passed for 845 yards with 600 yards rushing in six games. Through seven games this season, he has completed 19 of 27 passes for 228 yards and hasn’t been as big of a factor in the running game — Friday night notwithstanding.
New Gibraltar Carlson coach Jack Giarmo installed the T-formation offense, which features two tight ends and three running backs. Carlson has thrived with its rushing attack, in part because defenses have struggled to determine which player is carrying the ball. And Franklin has taken to running the offense well.
“I prefer competitors at quarterback,” Giarmo told the Free Press. “They’re my best athletes — guys that can do it all and control the huddle. He’s a leader out there and very competitive. He’s upset with himself when he doesn’t make a good play. He’s going to try the next time to get it right.”
In other games involving Wisconsin’s 2018 commits:
- Cornerback Travian Blaylock recorded an interception in Atascocita’s (Texas) 62-7 victory against Channelview. According to the Houston Chronicle, Atascocita has outscored its district opponents 125-14 in two games so far.
- Wide receiver Isaac Guerendo, who missed his team’s game last week with an injury, responded with 5 catches for 73 yards to help Avon (Ind.) defeat Zionsville 41-0. Guerendo has 40 catches for 994 yards with 12 touchdowns this season, according to MaxPreps.com.
- West Bloomfield (Mich.) wide receiver A.J. Abbott caught a nice 8-yard touchdown pass on a fade route during his team’s 49-21 victory Friday night. Here is video of the play:
— Eric Pierce (@therealepap) October 6, 2017
- Culver City (Calif.) defensive back Alex Smith returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown in his team’s 46-27 victory against El Segundo. He also caught 3 passes. Culver City is off to a 6-0 start. Check out his full highlights from the game:
- Running back Nakia Watson helped his Austin (Texas) Westlake team remain unbeaten with a 34-24 victory against Hays. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Watson scored on two 1-yard rushing touchdowns and added an 11-yard touchdown reception. He also converted a crucial fourth-and-one late in the game to help seal the win. He carried 30 times for 158 yards. Westlake improved to 6-0. Watson has 985 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns this season.
- Finally, quarterback Chase Wolf continues to put together a spectacular senior season for St. Xavier (Ohio), which defeated La Salle 42-7 to capture the outright Greater Catholic League South division title for the first time since 2012. Wolf completed 16 of 21 passes for 194 yards with 4 touchdowns. According to WCPO.com, Wolf completed his first 9 passes for 144 yards with 3 touchdowns before his first incomplete pass occurred late in the first quarter. St. Xavier is 7-0 in a season for the first time since 2007, when the Bombers last won a state championship on the way to a 15-0 season. You can watch Wolf’s big night below: