ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It’s unclear whether Wisconsin will be without star QB Graham Mertz -- and possibly its top three quarterbacks -- when it travels to Ann Arbor in three weeks to play Michigan.
Mertz shined in his debut as Wisconsin’s starter Friday, completing 20 of 21 pass attempts for 248 yards and five touchdowns against Illinois. Over the weekend, reports emerged that Mertz had tested positive for COVID-19.
That first positive test came from an antigen test, and on Tuesday, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported that Mertz tested positive for a second time -- presumably through a polymerase chain reaction test.
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Per the Big Ten’s coronavirus protocols, Mertz will have to be out for 21 days, meaning he would at least miss Wisconsin’s matchups with Nebraska and Purdue.
The Wolverines are scheduled to host the Badgers on Nov. 14. That would be exactly 21 days from Mertz’s positive test, and according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, he would be allowed to return to action that day.
Two things on #Wisconsin, Covid and B1G:— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) October 27, 2020
- Longer quarantine is to rule out heart issues and give players time to catch up conditioning wise to prevent injury
- The 21-day clock starts from first positive test, so if Mertz tested Saturday, could return for Michigan on 11/14
Losing Mertz is a major blow to Wisconsin, but it’s even more significant considering last year’s starter, Jack Coan, had foot surgery earlier in the month.
There’s no definitive timetable for Coan’s return, but being back just 40 days after surgery to play against Michigan would be a quick turnaround.
After Mertz and Coan, the next man up would be third-stringer Chase Wolf. Unfortunately, Wolf has also reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, though he hasn’t had a second positive test confirmed.
That would put Wisconsin without its top three quarterbacks for three weeks, and redshirt junior Danny Vanden Boom would take over. He’s thrown one career pass for three yards and was a three-star pro-style passer in the 2017 recruiting class.
The Big Ten put strict COVID-19 protocols in place when it reversed the decision to postpone football season. Those protocols figure to be an issue for many teams throughout the eight-week regular season, and Wisconsin is the first clear victim.