MADISON — Spring practices are generally low-risk, high-reward for coaches and players. They’re an opportunity to shift some things around, try players at different positions, but most of all, they provide a great opportunity to evaluate a player’s growth and role heading into the 2017-18 season.

Alex Hornibrook was in a bit of a malleable role with the team last season. He started some games and was subbed in for others. Through it all, his growth as a player was apparent. He was making quicker and cleaner decisions as a redshirt freshman in the midst of a potential College Football Playoff run. That kind of experience coupled with real pressure is something not many young college quarterbacks encounter, but Hornibrook took every opportunity he could to prove his worth.

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After the fourth spring practice of the year, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph had prideful words for the young QB in terms of his maturation.

“He’s more commanding of the offense, there’s a confidence there, even [his] words in the huddle,” Rudolph said. “There’s a calmness to him that I like…He doesn’t get flustered if a play isn’t just right.”

Hornibrook has taken steps during this short offseason to hone his skill set, namely traveling to San Diego over spring break to work out with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. His dedication to domination over relaxation is his calling card, and Rudolph agrees.

“I think anyone who takes the time to detail their [game] up and is thinking about their craft on their own time is always good,” Rudolph continued.

In terms of outlook for the upcoming season, the clarity of Hornibrook’s role makes planning for the year that much easier. However, Rudolph thinks that the competition between Houston and Hornibrook was not only good for the incoming redshirt sophomore, but for the squad in its entirety.

“I think last it was good for our team. Both of those guys brought a different energy … I was excited for both of their success. This year, it’s easy, it’s clear, and Alex is ready to step into that role and to let him start in a leadership position right off the jump I think is great.”

Hornibrook will man a dramatically different Wisconsin unit this year, but signs are pointing to the fact that he’s ready to be the consistent and winning QB that his coaches have seen in him.