It’s no secret that Florida football fans are skeptical about whether Graham Mertz can lead the Gators to victory in 2023. His stats are Wisconsin was not great, but there is also reason to argue that Mertz was hampered by inept play calling and a porous offensive line.
And while members of the media have seen bits and pieces of Mertz practice and Billy Napier has said mostly positive things about Mertz, he has yet to anoint him as QB1 heading into the 2023 season.
We don’t want to put too much stock into a Spring Game we do have to ask given that he is not entrenched as QB1 yet, what happens if Mertz has an awful Spring Game?
Florida Football: Miller Time
“But Ben, you’re just engaging in clickbait nonsense. You have no idea what is happening.”
You’re not wrong, but let’s sift through the clues Napier has given us throughout this Spring. During his press conference on National Signing Day, Napier gave an answer that felt like it should have perked up ears more than it did.
He was asked about the number of scholarship QBs on the roster and said the Gators would be in the market for another QB during the May transfer window. He would probably argue that he is merely looking to add depth to the roster, but Florida didn’t have a bunch of depth behind Anthony Richardson for 2022 and Napier didn’t go after an extra QB last year beyond Jack Miller during the January window.
During his press conferences he’s given after each Spring scrimmage, Napier has said positive things about Mertz, but he hasn’t indicated there is much separating between Mertz and Miller.
Some of this could just be coach speak. Deion Sanders and his whole everyone has to earn their number stunt comes to mind.
But unless Miller has made dramatic improvements, which also isn’t something Napier has seemed to indicate, we kind of know what to expect from Miller. He had a really poor Spring Game last year, broke his thumb during Fall camp, and once healed was stuck behind Jalen Kitna and relegated to third-string status.
When Richardson declared for the draft and Kitna was hauled off in handcuffs, Miller was given a chance in the Las Vegas Bowl to show what he could do.
It once again wasn’t great.
Enter Graham Mertz from the portal. Even with his highly mediocre play at Wisconsin, it was widely assumed that he was getting the starting job for 2023 because Miller wasn’t the answer.
But Orlando Sentinel write Edgar Thompson and On3 writer Nick de la Torre have both hinted that the competition for starting QB isn’t set in stone.
Outside of the brief glimpses the media gets at practice, no one knows for sure how close the two have been behind closed doors.
On Thursday the door will be wide open to everyone and there is nowhere to hide. Everything about the Spring Game is designed to make the offense look good. Mertz can’t be hit and the defensive coverages will be vanilla.
If Mertz comes out and he hits his receivers in time and has poise, many of the negative narratives will quell until the first snap against Utah.
If Mertz mimics what Miller did last year though, look out. Mertz needs to have a performance that clearly separates him as the leader under center because it’s going to be a long offseason if he doesn’t
Because for most Florida football fans, if Jack Miller is the answer, they probably are scared to know what is the question.