It took Wisconsin nine years to find the quarterback. Nine years after Russell Wilson’s record-setting transfer season in Madison, the Badgers finally have another elite quarterback who might push them closer to their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff. It took COVID two days to wipe it away.
Two days after Wisconsin throttled Illinois behind a near-perfect day from redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz, the Badgers could be without their top three quarterbacks for their next three games. On Sunday, news broke of Mertz’s positive COVID test, which was met with news one day later with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal’s report of a positive test for third-string quarterback Chase Wolf, who missed Monday’s practice. While Wisconsin did not confirm either positive test, and won’t disclose health information of any student-athlete, they did release a statement, saying, among other things, “Individuals who receive a presumptive positive antigen test result are removed from team activities and are required to take a PCR test to confirm positivity.”
“The No. 1 concern for the league, and I appreciate this, was how do we best keep everyone as safe as possible regarding the virus, and then how do you manage the impacts of it when someone has it,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “Admittedly, they told us it was more conservative, and if that helps one person, then that’s a good thing for us. We’ve known that there was a lot of work that went through this. For us to play, if that is something that’s in the best interest of everyone involved, then I completely support it.”
As of Tuesday morning, it’s unclear if Mertz and/or Wolf also tested positive with the PCR test. If they did, both are required to miss 21 days per the Big Ten’s COVID policy. If both players tested positive on Sunday (and not Saturday or Friday night), they would miss Wisconsin’s games against Nebraska (away), Purdue (home), and Michigan (away). And with starter Jack Coan still sidelined with a foot injury, fourth-string quarterback Danny Vanden Boom could start each game. If they tested positive on Friday night or Saturday, the 21-day period would end before the Michigan game.
Vanden Boom is a 6-foot-5 redshirt junior from Kimberly, Wisc., who was a three-star recruit in the Badgers’ 2017 class, accepting his lone Power Five scholarship offer. He redshirted in 2017, attempted one pass in 2018, and didn’t appear in any games in 2019, and entered the season buried on the depth chart behind Coan, Mertz, and Wolf. Wisconsin has only other quarterback on the roster, true freshman walk-on Daniel Wright, a 6-foot-8 former Division-II commit.