The music blares over the speakers in Camp Randall. Students are lining up around the stadium collecting their season tickets. The bars are getting ready for raucous crowds and good cheer.
Gameday is a mere stones throw away, and with that, an opportunity for the Wisconsin offense to begin the season on a high note.
Their opponent is a Utah State program struggling to find its way. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook will be doing all he can to make sure they don’t find their way Friday night in Camp Randall.
“We got some receivers competing for balls, we got some running backs who are doing a heck of a job and fullbacks and tight ends are thrown right in there,” tight ends coach Mickey Turner said. “I think Alex is really managing it well.”
All offseason long, coaches and players of the Badgers have raved about Hornibrook’s confidence and play. He always had the deep ball arm, but lacked a certain zip that got it past opposing defenses. This offseason during fall camp, it seems that zip has found its way.
The best player coming back for Utah State, who Hornibrook will be looking to avoid, will be senior defensive back Dallin Leavitt. In 2016, he tallied the fourth most tackles on the team including two for a loss.
On pass defense, Leavitt also excelled with three interceptions. Jalen Davis, a senior cornerback also figures to loom large. He led Utah State last season with seven passes broken up. Hornibrook, if he plays Friday night well, can start the season off on a very strong note.
The wide receivers, for their part, are going to be giving Hornibrook a lot of targets to get the ball moving downfield.
“I feel like it’s really working out. You can see in the packages we’re running they’re starting to trust the receivers more and put more on our plate and then we can do more,” sophomore receiver A.J. Taylor said.
Taylor also figures to make an impact in special teams were he will start as the kick returner, a spot he played in his high school days.
“I think A.J., I mean there’s a guy who has really had a heck of a camp and I’m excited to see AJ play and perform this season,” head coach Paul Chryst said.
One thing that has really helped the offense prepare for the season as it stumbles upon us, is the fact they’ve had to go up against the Wisconsin defense every practice.
The Wisconsin defense has consistently been a top-tier defense, so going against that competition has really helped the Badgers to prepare for game speed.
“It really helps, because they give you a really good sense of what a game is going to look like. If you catch the ball, they’re going to be there so you better cover the ball up or fall with it,” Taylor said. “They’re always there with you, always competing. I feel like the higher the level of competition, the better you are for the season.”
The running backs also have something to prove as there are three co-starters: Senior Chris James, sophomore Bradrick Shaw and freshman Jonathan Taylor.
Earlier in fall camp, SST talked with running back coach John Settle and he expressed that while it was nice the running backs enjoyed sharing the ball with their teammates, he was waiting for one of them to go out and take the spot. Clearly that did not happen as freshman Jonathan Taylor has forced his way into the conversation.
That said, look for the Badger offense to roll Utah State and for Hornibrook to start off his sophomore campaign on an impressive note.