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How is Wisconsin shaping up at quarterback for 2017?

An early look at the Badgers’ signal callers.

Alex Hornibrook will lead the Wisconsin offense this fall.
Patrick Barron

We’re less than 100 days away from the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2017 season opener against Utah State on Sept. 1, but we still have a ways to go. We’ll highlight the depth chart at each position while we count down the days until Big Ten media days and the start of fall camp.

Alex Hornibrook is the man—he has to be, really‚ under center for the Wisconsin Badgers this season.

Initially named the starter before the start of spring practices by head coach Paul Chryst, the redshirt sophomore has the keys to the high-octane performance car that is the Wisconsin offense. Like all “fast” cars, a worthy driver can take full advantage of the potential of the machine.

Hornibrook could be on the verge of a huge 2017 season, but if injuries or unforeseen circumstances strike, UW would need to rely on unproven talent behind him.

Wisconsin’s 2017 Quarterbacks

Quarterback 2017 Year Height Weight Hometown
Quarterback 2017 Year Height Weight Hometown
Alex Hornibrook R-SO 6'4 213 West Chester, Pa.
Karé Lyles R-FR 6'0 224 Scottsdale, Ariz.
Jack Coan FR 6'3 199 Sayville, N.Y.
Danny Vanden Boom FR 6'5 200 Kimberly, Wis.

Not much has changed on Wisconsin’s depth chart at quarterback since the spring. Fans can finally (hopefully) put to rest the Malik Zaire rumors, as the former Notre Dame signal caller reportedly will choose Florida—if the SEC changes its graduate transfer rules.

That leaves Hornibrook as the man. He’s the only quarterback with playing experience in college after being part of the platoon with Bart Houston in 2016, completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The fact that Hornibrook earned playing time last season as a redshirt freshman is impressive. He showed maturity beyond his years after enrolling early in January 2015 along with tight end Kyle Penniston, guard Jon Dietzen, and, yes, current BYU student-athlete Austin Kafentzis.

During the spring, Hornibrook showcased what got him behind center in significant action: accurate throws (most notably on deep passes) and the ability to drive down the field. What was also displayed in March and April was the ability to throw with some extra “zip,” something that was noticeably different from last season.

“I think it’s the whole thing, starting with the feet, and that’s a big thing for me,” Hornibrook said back in March, “getting my base right and not getting too tall in the pocket. Trying to keep a good base and that’ll help with movement, throws, everything.”

There were some interceptions thrown by the Chester, Pa., native, but this is the time to test the limits and work on timing. Those picks should not necessarily be viewed with a critical eye, as the 15 practices allotted to each FBS program allow for more coaching moments. Make mistakes now in a game-like simulation so that you know what’s possible when it actually matters.

With a possible All-American tight end in Troy Fumagalli and all-conference contenders Jazz Peavy, Bradrick Shaw, and Chris James at his disposal, and behind an offensive line returning significant starters, Hornibrook could have a breakout 2017.

If something happens to the southpaw that would force him to miss playing time, Wisconsin will have to rely upon redshirt freshman Karé Lyles and true freshman Jack Coan. Depending upon when and where that would happen, it could hamper the Badgers extensively.

That’s nothing against the two young quarterbacks. Both had their moments during the spring—Lyles has a live arm and made some solid completions, while Coan displayed intriguing mobility and was able to move the ball down the field at times against fellow backups.

Like all inexperienced quarterbacks, however, they both need significantly more seasoning. Lyles missed last spring due to a hip injury, limiting the head start of enrolling early to merely mental reps. Coan came to Madison less than six months ago.

Both have the potential to be more-than-capable replacements down the road (admittedly, there should be intrigue in seeing who develops into No. 2 on the depth chart this fall), but Hornibrook is just that much farther ahead. I believe Coan could be something special in cardinal and white, but don’t count out Lyles at all.