As Badger fans, we are all familiar with the name Graham Mertz, the University of Wisconsin football team’s starting quarterback. Mertz made a name for himself last season following an injury to previous starting quarterback Jack Coan. The redshirt freshman started his first game as a Badger against the University of Illinois, where he went 20-for-21 through the air, adding five touchdowns and 248 yards en route to a 45–7 win.
This was Mertz’s best game of the season, a season that had its ups and downs by way of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the season still ended with a victory for the Badgers in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, there is still a lot more to improve looking ahead to next season.
Mertz’s involvement with the team shows that the Badgers are moving toward a different quarterback mold. This shift is from years of conservative players like Joel Stave, Alex Hornibrook and Coan to a quarterback with dual-threat capabilities. This is a similar mold that is popular in the NCAA, and for Wisconsin to make this shift, it shows that they are adapting to the changes.
While Mertz is in the position to lead the team in the next few seasons, the Badgers are already planning their future with their newest class of 2022 commit, quarterback Myles Burkett.
Burkett is a 3-star recruit from Franklin, Wisconsin, a town located about an hour and a half away from Madison. Burkett had four total offers — Miami University in Ohio, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Wisconsin. Burkett officially committed to the University of Wisconsin Jan. 30.
Burkett has also been in contact with other Power Five schools, including Michigan, Washington and Iowa. Still, the QB wasted no time accepting his offer from the Badgers and cementing his future with the team.
In an interview with 247 Sports, Burkett said, “At first, it was just ‘wow,’ realizing that my dream school offered me. My second thought was to immediately take it. Opportunities don’t come around that often in this state, especially at the quarterback position, so I knew it was the best opportunity for my football career.”
Burkett is only the second in-state quarterback ever to be offered a full scholarship by UW. The first was Tyler Donovan, who played high school football in Hartland, Wisconsin, before committing to UW in 2003.
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During Burkett’s sophomore season, he led his team to a 10-2 record, finishing the season with 1,820 yards and 24 touchdowns, with a completion percentage of 70.9% and only five interceptions. In his junior season, which was cut short due to COVID-19, Burkett threw for 1,236 yards and 11 touchdowns through just five games while also completing 63.1% of his passes, leaving Burkett with high expectations for his senior season.
These stats are impressive, and Burkett has awards to back them up. Following both his sophomore and junior seasons, Burkett was named the Southeast Conference Player of the Year.
Burkett’s success in high school is eerily similar to that of Mertz. Mertz had an incredibly proficient senior year, finishing with 3,886 yards and 51 touchdowns. He also led his high school to the Class 6A state championship game. To complete his high school career, Mertz was selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he won MVP and threw for an All-American Bowl-record five touchdown passes. To cap things off, Mertz was the Kansas Gatorade Football Player of the Year following his senior season in 2019.
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Sure, Mertz’s stats and awards are bound to grab more attention, but this cannot distract from the high-end talent the Badgers are bringing in with Burkett. Burkett is the No. 6 prospect in the entire state of Wisconsin and the No. 1 quarterback in the state. On top of this, Burkett is ranked No. 31 overall in the country at his position. This comes without Burkett even playing his senior season, which is still up in the air because of COVID-19.
Burkett will have to make some adjustments to his play when the time comes for him to take the field in Madison. The Badgers tend to play more under center, while Burkett has become accustomed to a primarily spread offense while in high school.
“They loved the way I play,” Burkett said to 247 Sports. “They loved the diversity in my game and my ability to be a true pocket passer, but also extend plays with my feet.”
Burkett is set to enroll at UW next January, similar to Mertz’s early arrival in Madison. With that, he will have plenty of time to get familiar with the program and should have a smooth transition into the offense when his time comes.