Senior Bart Houston has patiently waited his turn for a legitimate chance at winning the starting quarterback job for Wisconsin. After surviving the Gary Andersen era, where it was apparent he didn’t fit the head coach’s vision, Houston will get his chance to show why he deserves to replace Joel Stave at quarterback over redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The one thing Houston has going for him over Hornibrook is experience. Houston has appeared in 15 career games, including a seven-high appearances last season. Houston’s play during spring didn’t allow him to create a lot of separation between himself and Hornibrook, as the battle between them will likely come down to whoever can be the more consistent of the two when fall camp opens in August.
Stats: 27-for-47 for 281 yards, 57.4 completion percentage, three touchdowns, two interceptions in 2015.
Strengths: Throughout Houston’s career, we have heard that he has a strong arm, and he has been able to display it at times during practice and in games. Houston’s ability was on full display when he came in for an injured Stave against Illinois, as Houston was able to show poise when he was standing in the pocket and the ability to scramble to the outside. He was able to read Illinois’ defense, usually placed the football where only his wide receiver could catch it and helped put Wisconsin’s offense in position to put points on the scoreboard. The experience Houston has gained during his time has allowed him to polish his delivery, which helps get his feet set if a pass rush is coming and being able to feel comfortable with the playbook.
Weaknesses: Houston is a gunslinger, which translates to big plays and also interceptions. It’s part of the reason why Houston’s spring was inconsistent with –at times – a high volume of interceptions. Head coach Paul Chryst encouraged his quarterbacks to make throws that would challenge them, but Houston has admitted he has attempted passes that should not have been thrown. Houston threw two interceptions against Illinois last season - one in the red zone and the second at the Illinois 24-yard line. Houston needs to limit those types of mistakes if he wants to be named starter, as Wisconsin likely won’t be able to afford many miscues against its schedule.
Why he’s #4: Although there is still plenty of fight left between Houston and Hornibrook at the quarterback position, it would make sense if Chryst opts to go with Houston due to his experience and talent. The majority of Houston’s 15 career appearances have come in mop-up duty, but the then-junior gave Chryst a glimpse of what he can do in a game when it wasn’t already decided in the victory at Illinois. Houston was able to get Wisconsin’s offense in a flow, get rid of the football quickly to void the Illini pass rush and make a couple of nice throws in the passing game. The key for Houston when practice resumes in August is to use the experience he has and demonstrate the ability to consistently make the right calls at the line of scrimmage.
Overall: Chryst didn’t want either Houston or Hornibrook to focus on the competition between themselves during the spring, rather make the most of the reps they received to better themselves when fall practice begins. Houston believes he was able to accomplish that, especially since him and Hornibrook were the only two quarterbacks to get reps in camp. Getting better each day is key for Houston as he’ll need to show that he can limit the interceptions that plagued him during spring and be able to move the offense effectively. As Chryst needs a quarterback, which he knows that he can trust and that he doesn’t have to limit the playbook for if Wisconsin wants to have success on offense.