One of the biggest questions for Wisconsin in 2019 as the Badgers look to climb back to the top of the Big Ten West is who will be the starting quarterback. With the new season now two weeks away in Madison, head coach Paul Chryst isn’t ready to spill the beans on that topic. However, although he may have a better feel for the direction he intends to go, Chryst may not feel the urge to share the news publicly.
According to Wisconsin beat reporter Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal, Chryst may make his call following a closed scrimmage scheduled for Monday.
The top two leading candidates for the job are Jack Coan and freshman Graham Mertz. Coan has been expected to be the likely replacement for Alex Hornibrook in Madison this season after Hornibrook left Wisconsin and transferred to Florida State, but the arrival of one of the top quarterback recruits has kept the competition ongoing until a decision needs to be made. Coan played in five games for Wisconsin last season, in which he completed 60.2 percent of his pass attempts for 515 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.
Mertz likely is the long-term solution for Wisconsin, but the question of how ready he is for the college game is the concern. This is especially the case given Wisconsin has a difficult Big Ten schedule on tap that begins with a game against the Michigan Wolverines in September.
It’s also entirely possible Chryst uses the early non-conference games to give both options a chance to play and use the bye week in Week 3 as the deadline to make a final decision. Such a move is not too uncommon even if it is the less ideal path to reaching a final decision. But the age of freshmen being unable to step in and have an impact on the field is a thing of the past. If Mertz can step in and make some noise, he could end up being the guy for the Badgers as early as this season. For now, Coan is probably still the leader in the clubhouse, even if that means there is a short leash.
Wisconsin opens the 2019 season on the road on Friday, Aug. 30 with a game at USF in Tampa. Wisconsin’s home opener will be played the following weekend on Sept. 7 against Central Michigan.
Forget about any questions about whether or not health issues will interfere with Alex Hornibrook at Wisconsin. Hornibrook is reportedly considering a transfer and has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
“Alex informed us of his decision to leave the team earlier today,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said in a released statement. “He contributed to a lot of our recent success and we want to thank him for all he did for our program. We wish him the best of luck.”
Hornibrook released a statement of his own through his Instagram account.
Hornibrook will be a graduate transfer, which will make him eligible to play right away for any other FBS program this fall. He has one final year of eligibility at his disposal. In 35 career games played at Wisconsin, Hornibrook has passed for 5,438 yards and 47 touchdowns with 33 interceptions. Concussion concerns late last season took him out of action for a few games down the stretch of the regular season, although he did return for the regular season finale against Minnesota. He did not play for the Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami, a year after thriving against the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl.
Hornibrook did return to participate in offseason winter workouts with the program last month, which was an encouraging sign. But now he will likely be on the move. Entering a name in the transfer portal does not require a player to leave his current school, so a return to Wisconsin is still entirely possible. This just allows Hornibrook to evaluate and be in contact with other programs as he decides what to do next.
If Hornibrook does leave Madison, the Badgers may simply put incoming four-star freshman Graham Mertz into a starting role. Mertz enrolled early in Madison, which makes him eligible to participate in spring practices for the Badgers. If Mertz doesn’t impress enough to get the starting job in the fall and needs a little more time to be prepared for the job, then Wisconsin still has Jack Coan to rely on. Coan served as Wisconsin’s backup quarterback last season and he started in place of the injured Hornibrook when needed.
Wisconsin fans likely will be smiling knowing their quarterback of the future just set a record in the All-American Bowl. Graham Mertz set two of them, actually, on his way to winning MVP honors as the East dominated the West in this year’s All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Mertz threw for 188 yards and five touchdowns to show Wisconsin fans what they should expect to see soon in Madison.
Mertz, a four-star pro-style quarterback from Kansas, was a big addition to the Wisconsin recruiting class and it was easy to see why on Saturday in San Antonio. The 188 passing yards and five touchdowns in an all-star game that typically sees the ball spread around between some of the nation’s top recruits, and quarterbacks tending to split the snaps was a mighty feat. Of course, it helps when Mertz is throwing the football to other four and five-star players.
A number of players made their college announcements during the course of the game as well. USC scored a big recruiting victory with the addition of five-star wide athlete Bru McCoy and four-star wide receiver Kyle Ford. It was a solid day for Oklahoma as well with the addition of five-star wide receiver Jadon Haselwood to the recruiting class in Norman.
Purdue scored a great recruiting victory as well by landing the commitment of wide receiver David Bell, who will pair quite well with Rondale Moore in the passing game moving forward for the next couple of years. Bell picked the Boilermakers over Ohio State and Penn State as Purdue struck gold with this recruiting battle. Naturally, the day featured a stud defensive lineman, Khris Bogle, choosing to go to Alabama