New Florida QB Graham Mertz Impresses in Spring Practice

Quarterback Graham Mertz has proved divisive amongst Florida Gator fans, but he's impressed head coach Billy Napier early in spring practice.

The addition of Graham Mertz to the Florida Gators quarterback room as a potential replacement for Anthony Richardson has proven divisive among fans. However, the former Wisconsin passer has impressed coaching staff in the early stages of spring practice.

New Florida QB Graham Mertz Impresses Early in Spring Practice

“I’ve been impressed with Graham,” head coach Billy Napier began as he addressed the media earlier following the fourth practice session of spring camp. “Graham’s made a great impression on all parts of this organization and certainly on his teammates as well.”

Mertz committed to Florida in late December, after entering the transfer portal following the conclusion of the 2023 college football season.

While the most recent praise from his new head coach is a continuation of a glowing reference received from Napier on arrival, Florida fans haven’t all extended the same warm welcome to their new quarterback.

Mertz has proven an extremely divisive character amongst the Florida faithful. Perhaps it’s that he lacks the elite athletic ability that was the calling card of their recently departed starting quarterback of 2022.

Perhaps, the lack of excitement upon the arrival of the former Badger is a reaction to their disappointment at losing highly regarded high school recruit Jaden Rashada to Arizona State. It’s worth remembering that Mertz himself was once a much sought-after high school talent, a four-star standout ranked as the No. 3 pro-style QB in the 2019 class.

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Most probably, it’s the fact that he never consistently delivered the “Mertz Magic” that we saw during the beginning of his career against Illinois. That five-touchdown, 95.2% completion performance never quite manifested itself into the college football stardom that was once expected.

Regardless, Mertz entered a spring QB battle with Jack Miller III as a potential QB1 for the Gators this fall. While he may still need to win over a subsection of fans before he hits the field with a vengeance on a Thursday night in Utah, Mertz is already making an impression on his head coach and colleagues.

“He’s been very diligent since the first day,” Napier continued. “Very self-aware, there’s some experience there, I think the guy’s a really good communicator, and he’s got a good grasp of what’s happening out there. Very evident that the guy has started 32 games at a really good program. Excited about Graham, and what he’s done so far, and what he’s capable of in the future.”

While “excited” clearly stands out as a word to describe how Napier feels about the potential QB1 for Florida this fall, there’s another word in there that could prove to be crucial for the Gators: Experience.

Richardson had just one season as a starter for Florida, and, at times, that lack of experience showed. Mertz’s main competitor, Miller, a former four-star in his own right, has made just 36 passing attempts in the three years he’s been in college.

Of course, that isn’t Miller’s fault. He’s waiting patiently for his opportunity behind quarterbacks that will all likely be long-term starters.

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That experience advantage for Mertz, however, could prove to be pivotal in this QB battle in what is viewed externally as a critical year for Napier. That combination of experience, skill set, and a clear progression through spring camp could be enough to seal the starting job by the time summer rolls around.

“He’s got good stature,” Napier wrapped up his thoughts on his potential QB1. “Close to 6’3″, weighs about 220 pounds. He’s a guy that’s got arm talent. I thought he got a little bit better each day. Day three, in particular, I think the ball jumped out of his hand. It’s good to see him making progress. Whenever you are in a position like this, you’ve got to bring your best every day.”

Mertz reflected on the quarterback battle to while talking about the growth that has earned him praise so far.

“If you’re not, they’ll find someone who will. That’s the nature of the position. That’s the nature of the sport. On my end, I know if I handle my business, I will be great. That’s my biggest thing: push myself every day to a higher standard, and that’s where you see that growth.”

That growth appears to be evident to all around him, as Mertz tries to put himself in the best position to be the starting quarterback when the Gators travel to Utah in Week 1.