Wisconsin dealing with QB shortage following positive COVID-19 tests

Between an injury and the pandemic, the Badgers are without their top three quarterbacks.


Katina Zentz

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

In September, Danny Vanden Boom was likely not a name that came up in conversation among Wisconsin fans. Now, the junior appears to be the talk of the town in Madison.

The chatter about Vanden Boom was preceded by a chain of events that may lead to his first collegiate start on Saturday. First came starting quarterback Jack Coan’s injury. A right foot injury forced Coan from the Badgers’ Oct. 3 practice. He has since undergone surgery to repair the foot and is out indefinitely.

Following Coan’s injury, redshirt freshman Graham Mertz took over the starting job, and he excelled. Mertz threw for 248 yards and five touchdowns, completing 20 of his 21 passes in Wisconsin’s season-opener against Illinois in Madison.

After his big performance on Friday night, things began spiraling downward for Mertz. The former four-star recruit tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. Per Big Ten Conference protocol, Coan will be out for at least 21 days – meaning he could miss three games or more.

With Mertz out, it appeared it would be third-string quarterback Chase Wolf’s time to shine. However, word of Wolf’s positive COVID-19 test began to trickle out Monday evening.

Wisconsin’s top three quarterbacks can’t take the field this Saturday. So, the fourth-string Vanden Boom will take the Badgers’ snaps under center.

Vanden Boom is a junior from Kimberly, Wisconsin. He’s played in three games as a Badger – almost exclusively in garbage time. Vanden Boom has thrown one career pass – a three-yard completion against New Mexico State.

Vanden Boom took a redshirt in 2017 and did not play at all in 2019. He is also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a 2019 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. Presumably at the helm for the next three games, Vanden Boom will face the likes of Nebraska, Purdue, and No. 13 Michigan.

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Should anything happen to Vanden Boom, the Badgers do have a last-ditch option.

Daniel Wright is a freshman from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. The Badgers’ fifth-string quarterback stands at six-foot-eight and attended Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School. Wright did not carry a star rating or composite score when he was recruited out of high school.

While two quarterbacks have tested positive for COVID-19, no other staff members or players have reportedly contracted the virus. So, head coach Paul Chryst is confident his Badgers will play their game with Nebraska as scheduled this Saturday.

“I feel confident in everything that is happening right now,” Chryst told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re going with that. I feel confident going forward this week… I will not and cannot and should not comment on anything dealing with our testing and coronavirus. We’re following the guidelines set in place by the Big Ten.”

Chryst would not comment directly on the Badgers’ quarterback situation, but he did tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he is confident in all of his quarterbacks.

Brohm set to rejoin Boilermakers

After missing his team’s first game against Iowa last week, Purdue football head coach Jeff Brohm will be reunited with his team on Wednesday. Brohm will clear the Big Ten’s mandatory 10-day quarantine period for all that test positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

Brohm will reclaim control of his team from his younger brother and offensive coordinator Brian Brohm. Brian served as the Boilermakers’ interim head coach while Jeff was quarantining last week.

Leading the Boilermakers to a 24-20 victory over Iowa without star wideout Rondale Moore, Brian was named Athlon Sports’ Coordinator of the Week.

Moore’s status is still undetermined ahead of Purdue’s matchup with Illinois Saturday.

Penn State loses another running back

Nittany Lion running back Noah Cain is out for the rest of the season with a lower leg injury that he suffered over the weekend in his first career start.

The team’s starting running back — Journey Brown — was sidelined with an injury before the season, and former four-star recruit Ricky Slade transferred, leaving Penn State without three of its top four running backs.

Penn State takes on No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday.

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