The Badgers quarterback battle continues to be the elephant in the room with just a week and a half left before the Badgers kick off their season against LSU. Paul Chryst has yet to name whether it will be redshirt senior Bart Houston or redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook who will run the offense on September 3rd.
At first glance, you would think Houston has more experience than Hornibrook. Houston does have more experience than Hornibrook, it’s just not very much – or very valuable. Houston has obviously been stuck behind Joel Stave for his entire career, therefore he hasn’t received much action in actual games.
Houston has actually accumulated more punts in his career than touchdown passes. He punted seven times over the course of the 2014 season. Houston has thrown for four touchdowns and two interceptions over three years.
In last year’s game at Illinois, Houston replaced an injured Stave, a game in which he acquired most of his playing time. Of his 51 career attempts, 33 came in that game in Champagne. Houston rallied a struggling Badgers team, helping the team win 24-13. Houston was 22-33, 232 yards, and had two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Later in the year, he would again relieve Stave against Northwestern. Houston came in at the very end of the game in Northwestern’s red zone with the Badgers down, and threw an ugly pass resulting in an incompletion as the Badgers lost their second straight game to Northwestern.
Even though he doesn’t have much game experience, where he does have experience is through five years of practices. This is Houston’s redshirt senior year. He’s had the opportunity to be around the receivers for their entire careers, whereas Hornibrook has only been on campus for a little over a year.
However, Hornibrook offers the opportunity for the Badgers and Chryst to anchor down their offense for the future. The Badgers arguably have the toughest schedule in the nation, and the Badgers record may suffer no matter who is at quarterback (although it’s hard to imagine Chryst thinking about it this way). Starting Hornibrook would give him the game reps needed going ahead into his career.
Then again, Stave had the same scenario, and some may argue that Stave’s best season was his freshman year. The offense as whole certainly didn’t grow the way you would expect with the same quarterback over the course of four seasons.
All of it is going to come down to Chryst’s perspective. If you want to prepare for the future during what is going to probably be a down year, Hornibrook should be sent out and be allowed to make mistakes and grow has a collegiate quarterback. If Chryst feels good about his team’s chances against the likes of LSU, OSU, Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, and Iowa, Houston should be the answer.
Chryst said in a BTN interview that there was a chance that both could play, but he also said that the best will play. As of lately, it seems like Houston has been the better man in practice.
However, it wouldn’t be surprising if both did play. Whether it’s Houston or Hornibrook that get the initial nod, neither will play without some growing pains, and we’ll see how quick to the trigger Chryst is to switch things up at quarterback. Perhaps Chryst could go with Houston early on to give Hornibrook more time to develop and watch, and then give a chance to Hornibrook closer to the end of the year.
No matter who Paul Chryst chooses to play quarterback, they’ll both presumably be doing the same thing over and over and over: turning around and handing the ball of to Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale, and Taiwan Deal.