This very moment in Wisconsin Badgers football history is unlike any in decades.
Next season, new faces will cover the field. A brand new coaching staff, led by former Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, and for the first time since 2019, a new man behind center.
Three-year starter Graham Mertz announced his intentions to enter the transfer portal in early December, and the Badgers are almost certainly on the lookout for a replacement in the portal, which is gaining more names seemingly everyday.
Wisconsin, to say the least, has struggled with inconsistent quarterback play the past few years. Quite frankly, it feels as if the Badgers have been searching for a true star at the position since Russell Wilson dazzled in his one year in Madison in 2011.
Perhaps Coach Fickell can strike gold and find the next great Badgers quarterback in the transfer portal. Here are some options the staff are surely evaluating.
Devin Leary, NC State
Remember that Wilson fellow I just mentioned, the one who led Wisconsin to the 2012 Rose Bowl? Well, he transferred from NC State, exactly the school Leary is transferring from.
Suffice to say, Leary would represent a sizable upgrade at football’s most important position. While limited to just six games this season due to injury, Leary still posted solid numbers, finishing with an 11-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
However, Leary’s 2021 season is what should put him high on Wisconsin’s radar. Leary threw for 3,433 yards while posting a dazzling 35-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for his efforts. Leary is an experienced starter who would bring a tremendous boost to the Badgers’ quarterback room.
Austin Reed, Western Kentucky
Reed is a unique prospect, as he started at Division II powerhouse West Florida. There, he led them to a Division II National Championship, throwing for over 4,000 yards and accounting for 46 total touchdowns.
He then made his way over to the FBS with Western Kentucky, where his excellence more than translated over to a higher level of competition. He totaled 4,247 yards and 36 touchdowns, while rushing for an additional eight on the ground.
Reed is now in the portal as a graduate transfer, and his combination of success at all levels and unique dual-threat abilities should make him a top target for Wisconsin.
Brennan Armstrong, Virginia
The 6-foot-2, 215 pound quarterback started parts of three seasons for the Cavaliers and seems like he would fit the model that coach Luke Fickell is looking for in his next QB.
A large yet mobile passer, Armstrong posted strong numbers during his time at UVA. His standout season was in 2021, when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns while adding nine rushing touchdowns. Armstrong’s numbers weren’t as strong this year, but in a year marked by inconsistency and then tragedy, it is still fair to look at his 2021 numbers and believe that he can fit nicely for the Badgers.
Hudson Card, Texas
Card is definitely not as proven as some of the other choices, but he had pedigree in high school and is an intriguing option looking for his own opportunity.
Card never got consistent playing time at Texas, but he did make the most of his chances when given. When starter Quinn Ewers went down with an injury this season, Card played in four games this year and, in total, threw for 928 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception.
The Austin native was a four star prospect coming out of high school and was ranked as the second best dual-threat quarterback in his recruiting class. Card clearly has ability, but he simply hasn’t gotten consistent playing time. Perhaps the Badgers can provide what he needs to succeed at the college level.
Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh
Slovis is an interesting option. He had an incredible season at USC in 2019 that put his name on every college football fan’s radar. As a freshman, he threw for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He also posted a stellar 71.9% completion percentage.
The stellar debut season was followed by solid numbers in the COVID-condensed 2020 season, as Slovis threw for 17 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. However, he struggled in 2021, and then promptly transferred to Pitt. Slovis didn’t quite do so well with the Panthers, as he only posted 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions. However, Slovis is a big quarterback who possesses mobility and athleticism that make him a talented player with some dual-threat ability. He also has a strong arm, and is definitely someone for Coach Fickell and crew to consider.
Slovis is a risk, and Wisconsin would be banking on past production, but the talent is clearly there. He could be an interesting option if other choices do not materialize.