The immense fan optimism surrounding Wisconsin's future at quarterback took a hit Friday when 2015 commit Austin Kafentzis left the program, according to a report by Evan Flood of 247Sports.
Long before he stepped foot on campus as an early enrollee this past January, Kafentzis was anointed by many as a future Badger star when he committed almost two years ago on June 8, 2013 under previous head coach Gary Andersen. A dual-threat quarterback from Sandy, Utah (Jordan), Kafentzis set or tied over a dozen state records while in high school. He is Utah's career prep leader in both passing and rushing yardage, the first person in any state to hold both those marks.
The announcement likely means nothing for this upcoming season. A probable redshirt player, Kafentzis was buried on the depth chart behind projected starter Joel Stave and reserves Bart Houston, D.J. Gillins and Alex Hornibrook.
Flood reported that Chryst was unsure whether Kafentzis would play quarterback down the road. If that's the case, a picture begins to emerge of how the Badgers will operate under center with Chryst. While Kafentzis was a prolific passer, his rushing ability was showcased just as frequently in his high school highlight tapes. His playing style aligned more with Andersen's philosophy, one that led to Gillins' recruitment and the Tanner McEvoy experiment.
Based on that, it's worth speculating how Gillins will fit into Chryst's system. The redshirt freshman's dual-threat playing style is similar to Kafentzis, but Gillins received regular reps in spring practice and there has been no talk of him switching positions. Still, he's beginning to look like an outlier, which could either a) cause him to also fall out of favor with Chryst; or b) separate him as the only quarterback with that particular skill set.
If Option A ends up playing out for Gillins, it would open up a wider window for either Houston or Hornibrook to claim the starting job the next couple of seasons. Houston was a four-star player out of high school, but has long been disregarded as a legitimate option at quarterback and had more punts last year (7) than pass attempts (3). While there have always been more questions than answers as to why he doesn't play, the general consensus is that Houston's skills are too similar to Stave's. However, that could bode well for him as the next Badger pro-style quarterback once Stave graduates.
As for Hornibrook, the former Pittsburgh pro-style recruit out of Malvern, Penn., followed Chryst to Madison and leapfrogged Kafentzis on the spring depth chart to earn more reps. He was a three-star player who received scholarship offers from several middling FBS programs. Besides Hornibrook, class of 2016 pro-style quarterback and three-star recruit Karé Lyles out of Scottsdale, Ariz. (Saguaro), could also contend for the starting spot in a few years.
The Badgers lost an incredibly talented high school quarterback Friday, but the sky isn't falling in Madison. Wisconsin will find another starting quarterback among these four to fill the void once Stave leaves after the 2015 season. If Chryst didn't view Kafentzis as someone capable of beating them out, the former Utah prep star is better off going elsewhere.