Fall camp has hit the time where the pads come on and things finally get real. It also means position battles are getting real and this Wisconsin Badgers football team has no shortage of battles going on.
Whether its quarterback, safety, the second running back or defensive line — UW has some big questions to answer heading in to its opener against LSU at Lambeau Field on Sept. 3.
As the pads finally come on and we get a few more glimpses of what players are really capable of, here is a look at how the biggest position battles are shaking out according to those who are in attendance at practice.
No position battle has been and will continue to be more highly scrutinized than that of the one between senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook at quarterback. It also is the toughest to really judge until the pads come on and true contact is happening.
Those pads have been on for a few days, and little has continued to separate the two quarterbacks according to observers.
Ultimately, this may come down to a question of just what style of passing game this coaching staff is comfortable with in 2016. It appears that Houston has the advantage in the short and intermediate passing game (although a minimal one), while there’s a clear advantage for Hornibrook in the deep passing game.
Day 5 of quarterback battle goes to Alex Hornibrook. Was sharp over the middle except one late throw, but some passes over the top. #Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) August 12, 2016
He also seems to be less adverse to bad passes in deep ball scenarios and in the red zone.
With Bart Houston struggling, Alex Hornibrook has a solid practice, going 14-for-20 during all his drills, 4 red-zone touchdowns and one INT
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) August 12, 2016
Looking back at UW’s past success, it usually has come with a running game that forces extra attention from opponents and a passing game that hits on play-action passes and big gains down the field. If that is the route, Hornibrook is the clear winner. If that’s not what the coaching staff believes will work against opponents, then Houston should be the winner.
Thankfully a decision doesn’t need to be made today and the next week-and-a-half should be a really interesting ride at quarterback.
With two new starters guaranteed following the departures of Michael Caputo and Tanner McEvoy, this position was bound to have plenty of competition. That’s especially the case with the way the Badgers have stock-piled talent at the position as well.
After six practices, it appears the coaching staff has a set of guys that will be in the rotation, and most importantly, a set idea of whom the starters are going to be. Every practice except this past one has seen the combination of D’Cota Dixon and Leo Musso starting, with sophomore Arrington Farrar and junior Joe Ferguson backing them up.
Farrar has seen some time with the first-team defense, and if there is a battle still to be had it is likely between him and Musso. However, the senior has taken the majority of snaps as a starter and that should be a good sign of what the coaching staff believes the best rotation will be for this team.
The good news is that this group has gone from thin to perhaps one of the deepest and most competitive positions on a strong defense. It was on display this weekend, as Dixon did not participate in practice on Saturday and Farrar slid in to the strong safety position without much of a hiccup in the play of the safety position.
This battle has flown largely under the radar, especially since Anthony Lotti was given a scholarship in this past class and P.J. Rosowski was a walk-on without a scholarship. However, fall camp has proved to be an intriguing battle between the true freshman and sophomore. Lotti has been consistently good, but Rosowski has wowed observers at times with booming punts with amazing hang time.
Lotti is still the favorite to win this job, but Rosowski isn’t making things easy and if those booming punts can also be married with more consistency in other areas he could eventually win this job. Overall, the good news is that there actually is competition for the starting punting job and whomever wins it will be better off for it.
From Friday: #Badgers frosh punter Anthony Lotti settling in after uneven start. https://t.co/7x5K3Nq8eQ
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) August 13, 2016