Changing his commitment from Pittsburgh once Paul Chryst took the head coaching job, Alex Hornibrook has already made an impression without playing in a game at Wisconsin. Enrolling in January 2015 to take part in spring practices, Hornibrook was able to gain some valuable tools during his redshirt season that put him right in the mix to be the starting quarterback for the Badgers in 2016.
Stats: Redshirted last season. as a senior in high school, completed 63 percent of his passes for a school-record 2,156 yards and school-record 26 touchdowns … finished career with a school-record 3,356 passing yards and 38 touchdowns.
Strengths: It doesn’t take long to see that Hornibrook has a strong arm, which is his strongest part of his game. During the spring game Hornibrook threw touchdown passes of 46 and 43 yards, and over the course of spring displayed an improving knowledge of being able to place the football in the right position to where only the intended receiver could catch it. After starting off spring football slow, Hornibrook got into a rhythm, cutting down turnovers and miscues and making the offense run efficiently and effectively. In addition to having good poise in the pocket for a freshman, Hornibrook never appeared to let a bad practice or a bad throw carry over into what’s next.
Weaknesses: The obvious is inexperience, as nobody knows for sure what kind of quarterback Hornibrook would be when the action is live, how he’d react against different defenses and how to handle pressure situations. One of the things Hornibrook battled with during spring was inconsistent play, putting up high interception totals during some practices. The up-and-down play during spring is one thing, but those problems persisting during fall camp will prevent him from winning the starting quarterback job.
Why he’s #18: If Hornibrook can start fall camp like he ended spring practice he will certainly have a chance of beating fifth-year senior quarterback Bart Houston for the starting job. But if Hornibrook is inconsistent like he was early in spring, Houston’s game experience would likely win out. Even if Houston is named the starter (which is currently the popular opinion), Hornibrook could still see some meaningful game reps as the backup in certain situations. Either way, Hornibrook has made significant strides in 18 months that should get fans excited for his future with the program.
Overall: There are plenty of different position battles that will need to be sorted out once fall camp begins, but the battle between Hornibrook and Houston will likely last the longest before Chryst announces a starter. Hornibrook has been able to show his gradual improvement, something he contributed to being able to travel with the team last year and watch fifth-year senior Joel Stave go through his preparation. That helped Hornibrook study himself, resulting in fewer mistakes and bigger completions as spring concluded. Even though spending this year as a backup and watching might be the most beneficial to him in the long term, the way Hornibrook concluded spring proves there is still plenty of fight left in the starting competition.