Quarterback battle? Tell Wisconsin Badgers fans something they donâ€™t know. What will be new is there will be no inevitable Joel Stave victory at the end of it all.
As Joel Stave moves on after re-writing plenty of the Badgersâ€™ record book at quarterback, Wisconsin faces a big question mark with a difficult schedule ahead of itself. Go with the senior quarterback who flashed promise in emergency duty or go young with the guy Paul Chryst recruited as his first quarterback for the Badgers?
Will those questions be answered in spring or can anyone else enter the mix heading in to the fall? Spring certainly will be interesting at quarterback in Madison, Wis.
Returning Starter(s):Â None
Departing Players:Â Joel Stave (60.8 comp. pct., 2,687 yards, 11 touchdowns, 11 interceptions)
Coming in to Program:Â Kare Lyles (early entrant); Bobby Dunn (sophomore walk-on)
Biggest Storyline:Â Starter, starter, will there be a starter?
Joel Stave may be the most polarizing and confusing quarterback to figure out in UW history. However, the debate over his play is now in the past-tense and the 2016 Wisconsin Badgers will face life without someone who has been a part of the last four seasons in Madison.
Figuring out who has the ability to replace him is going to be the key part of Wisconsinâ€™s offensive spring practices. Chemistry with wide receivers, leadership, decision making and moxie are all going to be huge factors in what plays out this spring.
Battling for the role as starter against LSU will be senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The two have a combined zero collegiate starts between them, but Houston saw extended action in the game against Illinois last season and showcased a major arm. He finished 22 of 33 for 232 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. Experience and versatility in offensive schemes are Houstonâ€™s advantage.
However, do not count out Hornibrook in the least. This is a QB that went from little-known early entrant to forcing out D.J. Gillins at quarterback in just his first spring last year. Chryst allowed Hornibrook to follow him from Pitt, where he committed originally, so the two clearly have a bond. If Hornibrookâ€™s work behind the scenes in 2015 turns in to production on the field in spring ball things could get really interesting at the QB1 position.
One name that wonâ€™t be physically involved this spring is 3-star quarterback Kare Lyles, who will sit out after hip surgery. Heâ€™ll be getting all the mental reps he can handle, but will have to wait to see him in physical action until the fall.
That means two real contenders with plenty of reps to go around. Spring could be really interesting between these two players.
Who Starts Against LSU:Â Bart Houston
It is tempting to believe in the redshirt freshman Hornibrook based on the rumblings that came out of the Badgers camp as the season progressed. However, thereâ€™s also something to be said for not killing a kid and with LSU, Michigan, Michigan Sate, Iowa, Ohio State and Nebraska on the schedule in five of the first eight weeks that is exactly what could be at risk. Look for Houstonâ€™s stability and overall experience to win out. Oh, and the fact that his arm is as good as any quarterback to come to Wisconsin in the last few decades. Unless Houston canâ€™t progress mentally with his reads, this is his job to give up.
Projected Depth Chart: Bart Houston; Alex Hornibrook, Kare Lyles
No mystery here since there are a whole three scholarship quarterbacks on UWâ€™s roster for 2016. Look for this to be a year where things are set up behind the scenes to figure out who is the long-term answer at QB1 for 2017 and beyond.