MADISON, WI – The start of Wisconsin fall camp kicks off tomorrow, but head coach Paul Chryst, players, and assistant coaches met with the media today for local media day.
There were plenty of storylines at Camp Randall today, but there’s one big topic on everyone’s mind. With 26 days until the season opener at Lambeau Field, the starting quarterback competition is the most talked about subject around Madison.
Coach Chryst has stressed throughout spring camp, summer training, and into fall camp that both quarterbacks, senior Bart Houston and sophomore Alex Hornibrook, are qualified to earn the starting job.
“We have to get both Bart and Alex ready to play,” Chryst said, “because one will be the starter and one will be one play away from being on deck.”
Houston has more game-time experience of the two quarterbacks. Actually, he has the only game-time experience, when he went in for the injured starter Joel Stave during the Illinois game last season on October 24, 2015. Houston finished the game completing 22 of 33 passes (66.7%) for two touchdowns and two interceptions. The team went on to beat Illinois 24-13.
Hornibrook has no game-time experience but had a solid spring camp earlier this year. He excelled at this year’s spring scrimmage on April 23 where he completed 4 of 8 throws for 138 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver George Rushing. In comparison, Houston made 7 of 13 throws for 73 yards as well as ran for 9 yards.
According to Chryst, spring camp was much more about individualistic growth, being able to correct specific issues and perfect the quarterbacks’ overall skill sets. Going into fall camp, the quarterbacks must be able to work cohesively with the rest of the offense.
“We should be tighter with the receivers offensively so that you can gauge if the quarterback moves the team.” Chryst said.
Both Houston and Hornibrook said they were able to work more with the receivers during summer training. Along with that, the quarterbacks were able to watch more film and grow comfortable with the playbook.
“I felt good as far as timing and comfortability with the receivers,” Hornibrook said of his improvements during summer training.
For Hornibrook, adjusting to the playbook was a greater transition, as he is only entering his second year with the Badgers. Chryst praised Hornibrook back in spring for his ability to quickly adjust to the Badgers playbook. Hornibrook stated over the summer he further studied the Badgers offense in preparation for the upcoming season.
On what he still needs to improve on, Hornibrook said, “mastering the whole offense. There is always room to improve there.”
Hornibrook went on to say his accuracy, his work in the film room, and his understanding of progression makes him stand out.
Houston too believes he benefited from summer training especially being able to study film and work with the receivers to improve their overall offensive unit. Houston enters fall camp with a little different perception than Hornibrook, with it being his last season after four years with the Badgers.
When asked if he recognizes it is his last fall camp Houston said, “Not yet. Hopefully it dawns on me after the season.”
What Houston calls “the last kick of the camp,” fall camp will allow both quarterbacks the time to work with the rest of their offense and correct any mistakes they may have in technique or the playbook in order to win that starting job come September 3.
Houston, like Hornibrook, hopes to use fall camp to work with the rest of the offense in order to be on the same wavelength when it comes to perfecting running and passing plays.
The Badgers have 11 practices before the start of the season to decide who their starting quarterback will be.
“Our team respects both of them,” Chryst said. “They know both Alex and Bart care about this team and will do anything for it.”
Presumptive starting left tackle Ryan Ramczyk expressed similar sentiments.
“We’ve got two great quarterbacks. They are both really capable of playing, so we will see what happens.”