The seemingly annual tradition of a spring “quarterback battle” was once again all the talk as the 2016 version of the Wisconsin Badgers. With starter Joel Stave gone and very little in-game experience on the roster, a battle for the QB1 position was inevitable.
However, we all shouldâ€™ve known better because when was the last time a true quarterback battle? For the last four years weâ€™ve all been told there would be a massive QB battle, only to see just one man emerge as the answer to the question â€” Joel Stave.
One needs to look back to 2011 for the last time a true QB battle lasted all spring long, and ironically it was the year we saw a future 4-year starter emerge in some guy named Stave. In a crowded field during spring ball, it was the walk-on freshman that emerged as the only noteworthy quarterback in the 2011 Badgers spring game.
As other QBâ€™s put in lackluster days, Stave at least showed promise and an ability to go vertical when needed.
We all know what happened that season though, as UW got the ultimate in graduate transfers â€” Russell Wilson â€” to commit his final collegiate season to the Badgers. It all ended in a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. For Stave, it meant a redshirt year and a chance to grow physically and mentally.
However, this is 2016 and there is no Russell Wilson coming to save the Badgers over the summer. Instead, this spring is about finding the answer here and now.
Spring ball is in early days, with the Badgers putting on the pads for the first time on Tuesday morning. But it already appears as if there is an answer to the quarterback question.
That answer is Bart Houston is looking more and more the part of the starter â€” and it has very little to do with his own play.
His only scholarship competition, redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook, went a combined 8-of-20 passing during team and 7-on-7 drills in UWâ€™s first padded practice on Tuesday. Hornibrook threw a pair of pick-sixes and had another one picked off by safety Leo Musso and a dropped one from sophomore Arrington Farrar.
One bad day doesnâ€™t break a spring, but the problem is reports from spring camp indicate this is more the norm than the
The biggest issue for Hornibrook appears to be in his ability to handle pressure from defenses. While thatâ€™s good news for new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, it isnâ€™t a good sign for a young quarterback looking to make his mark on an open QB battle that is literally 1-on-1.
For his part, Houston was much more accurate. He completed 12-of-17 passes in the team portions of the practice and had just one interception in all of practice.
Sound like 2011 to anyone else? There is plenty of time between now and Sept. 3 against LSU at Lambeau Field, but hearing things like “starter by default” and “if we had to pick between two bad performances” isnâ€™t exactly a good sign.
Letâ€™s see if Hornibrook is just hitting a blip on the radar or if Houston can command the offense to a level that it doesnâ€™t matter what the redshirt freshman is doing, he simply is doing the things needed to be a starter at UW.
With a brutal 2016 schedule on hand, UW canâ€™t afford to have a “starter by default” under center. It needs one they can be confident in based on performance and not just words spoken in press conferences.
Letâ€™s all hope the first day of padded practice isnâ€™t a harbinger of things to come or it could be a long 2016 ahead for the Badgers offense.