Wisconsin Football quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s name is currently listed in the NCAA transfer portal. What does this mean for the Badgers?
Alex Hornibrook’s Wisconsin career is over.
On Wednesday afternoon, Matt Zenitz, an Alabama and Auburn reporter, broke the news on Twitter that Hornibrook’s name is listed in the NCAA transfer portal. While all this technically means is that other schools are now free to contact and recruit him and he could still return to the Badgers if he wishes, the Wisconsin program did come out with a statement shortly after the news broke stating that Hornibrook has already left the team and will be transferring.
In addition, Hornibrook posted this farewell message on his Instagram account later in the afternoon.
The senior signal caller is coming off of a season plagued by injury and overall poor play in which he threw for 1,532 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Hornibrook missed 4.5 games after suffering a concussion and struggling with recurring symptoms from that injury.
There were certainly high points in his career, most notably his MVP performance in the 2018 Orange Bowl, but it’s fair to say most people will remember his time in Madison as disappointing and incredibly frustrating. Hornibrook demonstrated an ability to carry the Badgers on his back to victory, but those instances were few and far between.
In the end, Hornibrook was 26-6 as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback, a win total that is good for a tie for fifth place in school history. His 47 passing touchdowns and 5,438 passing yards put him in a tie for third and fifth in those areas, respectively. However, Hornibrook will probably be remembered by most for the mistakes he made, most notably his 33 career interceptions, many of which coming at the worst possible times in games.
With Hornibrook’s departure, the big question now is what this means in regards to the quarterback battle that will commence a few weeks from now when spring practice kicks off.
The competition looks like it could be pretty wide open. However, it’s probably pretty safe to say that Jack Coan has a leg up on his competitors at the moment and will head into the spring as the perceived No. 1 quarterback. The junior from Long Island is now the most experienced player in the room and showed brief flashes of being a competent starter last season. Coan stepped into the starting role once Hornibrook went down and ultimately put up 515 passing yards to go along with five scores and three picks.
While Coan certainly showed encouraging potential at times and deserves some leeway for his struggles since he was thrown into a pretty tough situation and often did not get much help in terms of play calling from the coaching staff, it’s safe to say that his performance in 2018 was not at all good enough to guarantee him anything this upcoming season. He will have his hands full this spring holding off his competitors for the starting gig, a group that should include Chase Wolf, Danny Vanden Boom, and yes, ballyhooed true freshman and early enrollee Graham Mertz.
Indeed, the hopes and dreams of the many Wisconsin fans who are clamoring for Paul Chryst to hand the keys to the car over to Mertz this season just got a hell of a lot closer to becoming reality.
There is no question that the freshman phenom from Kansas is going to have his work cut out for him coming out on top of three players who have the benefit of program experience, and, in the case of Coan, meaningful action in Big Ten play and the postseason. Again, though, Coan’s play in 2018 did not inspire a great deal of confidence. Don’t get me wrong: I hope he balls out this spring and establishes himself as the unquestioned starter. In an ideal world, it would be great if he could give the Badgers solid play under center this season and give Mertz some time to acclimate to college football before he takes over the reins of the program.
Nonetheless, the way things stand right now, I think there’s a real chance that Chryst breaks long-standing precedent and taps Mertz as the opening night starter against South Florida when all is said and done.
However, it’s a pretty futile exercise to predict how this competition is going to shake out without seeing a single snap of spring practice. We will know a heck of a lot more where things stand in a couple of months.
Needless to say, this is going to be the most fascinating spring for Wisconsin Football in recent memory. March 26 can’t come soon enough!
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com