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Badgers' QB situation in flux heading into Michigan game
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Badgers' QB situation in flux heading into Michigan game

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The quarterback situation for the University of Wisconsin football team remains in flux as it prepares to restart its season this weekend.

The No. 13 Badgers (1-0), returning from a two-week hiatus due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the program, still aren’t sure who will be under center when they travel to Michigan for a 6:30 p.m. game Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

“Kind of the question mark is Graham, he’s in the protocol,” UW offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said of redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz.

joe rudolph mug 11-13

Rudolph

“We’ve kind of got to see how this week progresses with him. Does he get through it? Does he get to practice? Where would he be at that point. In the meantime, we’ve had good practices and feel good about the guys who are rolling. A little bit of uncertainty there, but the guys that have practiced are, I think, ready to go.”

Mertz is approaching the end of a 21-day absence from games after being one of the 30 Badgers players or staff members to test positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 21. Mertz tested positive on Saturday, Oct. 24, so his 21 days ends on Saturday, which makes him eligible to play Saturday against the Wolverines.

The protocol Rudolph referenced is the Big Ten Conference’s return-to-play steps that players must complete and be passed through by a physician before returning to practice. Those steps begin with biking, before moving to jogging, then weight lifting and cardio. The earliest a player can return to practice is day 19, which for Mertz would be Thursday.

Graham Mertz mug

Mertz

“The big question mark is going to be if we get Graham to the point where he’s practicing and will he have enough in that you feel confident with him. That’s still in the air. I wish I could be more definitive for you guys, but I’m not defined yet in my own mindset, so we’ve just got to keep working through the week and see where we’re at. Listening to our training staff, keep working through it,” Rudolph said.

Michigan (1-2) has allowed opposing quarterbacks more than 300 yards and three touchdowns each of the past two weeks.

In an interview with the Big Ten Network on Wednesday, UW coach Paul Chryst said he was hopeful that Mertz would be available for the game. 

Mertz’s backup, redshirt sophomore Chase Wolf, also tested positive for COVID-19 after the Badgers’ season opener against Illinois. He may be available this weekend, but the date on which Wolf tested positive hasn’t been reported and UW doesn’t release that information due to medical privacy laws.

Without Mertz or Wolf available, UW would turn to redshirt junior Danny Vanden Boom.

“What you want to do is to put them in a position that the whole group would be confident in executing, I think that’s key. I think as we close out this week, it’ll be really good for us this evening, tomorrow, to really close down on the calls and try to get it tight enough to where everyone feels really confident and comfortable (that) whoever is taking the reigns has the skillset and the understanding to be able to execute. I think that’s kind of the key,” Rudolph said.

“Graham’s been our 1, (Wolf's) been our 2, Danny’s been our 3. We’ll work through it like that depending on who we’ve got and how healthy we are.”


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