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Gainesville Sun

Florida coach Billy Napier named Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz his team's starting quarterback for the 2023 season. Mertz, who joined the Gators ahead of spring practice, was Florida's expected starter given his wealth of experience at the power conference level. 

Napier's decision comes just a day after Florida held its first scrimmage of the fall camp slate. 

"I think the big thing I've been impressed with is just his ability to come in and learn the system, translate what he knows and apply that to our system," Napier said in a statement. "And then just, you know, relentless in approach. Probably's worked as hard as any player on our team. Probably as hard as a lot of players that I've been around, you know, in terms of the unseen hours, right? Those are what I'm talking about specifically, and the self-discipline, to have a system, a process, a routine, to work, to connect with players, ask very intelligent questions, and is anticipating problems, right. 

"So, Graham's done a great job and he's worked from the minute he pulled up in the parking lot until, you know, just a while ago, he's continued to work to improve, so been very pleased in that regard," Napier continued. "The level of professionalism here that I think is respected."

Mertz beat out another former Big Ten transfer in Jack Miller III, who joined Florida ahead of the 2022 season after two years at Ohio State. Miller even had starting experience for the Gators, as he was first off the bench in their Las Vegas Bowl loss to Oregon State. 

What Mertz brings to the table

Mertz got his first taste of Florida football in the Blue and Orange Game, which closed the Gators' spring practice slate. He completed 18 of his 29 pass attempts for 244 yards and one touchdown, leading the Orange Team to a 10-7 win. 

He started slow, posting only 10 of those yards in the first quarter, but threw for 136 in the second frame. 

The highlight of Mertz's game is his experience. Few quarterbacks in the 2023 transfer cycle were as battle-tested. He started every single regular season game at Wisconsin over the past three years and finished his career tied for the sixth-most starts in program history (32). His 19 wins as a starter ranked eighth all time among Wisconsin quarterbacks. 

He also became just the eighth Wisconsin QB to eclipse 5,000 career passing yards. His 13 passing touchdowns in Big Ten play were the most by a Badger in Big Ten play since 2017. Mertz's biggest struggle has been taking care of the ball. He has thrown an average of 14.5 touchdown passes to 10.5 interceptions over the last two years. 

His 159 passing yards per game for his career leave a lot to be desired as well. Mertz had at least 2,000 passing yards in a single season just once in his four years with the Badgers. 

Florida opens the 2023 season with a huge challenge as it hits the road Aug. 31 to play reigning Pac-12 champion Utah.