Quarterback Jack Coan is entering the transfer portal and will be leaving the Wisconsin Football program, Coan and the team announced early last week. After a foot injury sidelined the junior for the first two months of the season, Coan did not play at any point during the 2020 regular season — even after being activated prior to a week eight matchup against No. 16 Iowa.
“We had been having conversations throughout with [Coan],” Head Coach Paul Chryst said. "But the first time anything came up as far as his interest in possibly transferring was before the Iowa game.”
Chryst insisted that Coan was “not an option” to play in either the Iowa game or Wisconsin’s final matchup against Minnesota, though Coan was seen on the sidelines in full pads and participating in warmups. When starting QB Graham Mertz left the Minnesota game with an injury in the second half, it was third-stringer Chase Wolf who subbed in, not Coan — leading to speculation that Coan was not truly available to play at all this season.
Coan’s time in Madison was overshadowed by the imminent rise of Mertz, Wisconsin’s highest-rated quarterback recruit in school history. Yet Coan, in his 18 starts as the head of Wisconsin’s offense, was everything Chryst could have asked for and more. Highlighted by a 10-4 season in 2019 that finished with a Rose Bowl appearance, Coan led one of the nation’s most efficient offenses with a 69.6% completion percentage, ninth-best in all of college football.
Even more impressive, Coan threw just five interceptions throughout the entirety of his 14-start 2019 season, a true breath of fresh air from the turnover machine that was Alex Hornibrook. It might not have been the flashiest passing game in the Big Ten, but Coan was a great fit for the heavy-running attack Chryst and his staff implemented for now-Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.
After the foot injury sidelined Coan indefinitely this fall, Chryst had high-praise for the veteran in how he handled the setback emotionally.
“He’s incredibly unselfish,” Chryst said of Coan back in October. “He cares about this team and doesn’t want anything to affect the team in a negative way … It’s not about him and feeling sorry for himself. His focus is on the guys and this team, which is what I loved about him when I was talking about him last week, and what I love about him today.”
It’s unknown where Coan will look to play in 2021, but staying in the Big Ten isn’t out of the question. Northwestern, in particular, has been very active with recruiting transfer quarterbacks — most recently rolling with former Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey this season.
That could turn into a nightmare situation for the Badgers, who dealt with Mertz’s rookie struggles this fall — though many of the top offensive skill players missed multiple games due to COVID-19. Chryst and his staff have evidently put all of their eggs into the Mertz basket, passing on a low-risk option in Coan to try and reach a significantly higher ceiling.
As for Coan, opportunities to start for a power five program should not be hard to come by. A solid 2021 season for the incoming senior may push Coan into a legitimate NFL Draft selection; he entered 2020 as a possible fifth-round talent for the upcoming draft, but unsurprisingly fell due to the injury.