Wisconsin Badgers: With Hornibrook gone, is Mertz the starter?

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30: Alex Hornibrook #12 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on during the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30: Alex Hornibrook #12 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on during the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

With the recent news that Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook will be transferring, who will take over as the starter in 2019?

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook caught most of us off guard today when he announced that he would be transferring to play his final season of college football elsewhere. Hornibrook was a three-year starter that had experienced many highs and many lows during his time at Wisconsin.

In 2017, Hornibrook would throw for 2,644 yards along with 25 touchdown passes and led the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers to the Big Ten Championship game with a shot at the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, Wisconsin would end up losing to Ohio State but they would bounce back in the Orange Bowl against Miami. In that game, Hornibrook would win MVP honors as he completed 23 of his 34 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns against a stout Miami Hurricane defense.

Heading into the 2018 season, there were high expectations surrounding this Wisconsin Badgers football team as they were ranked fourth in the AP poll to start the year. However, Hornibrook and the Badgers would not live up to the hype.

More from Dairyland Express

On the year, Hornibrook would only start nine games due to injuries and would struggle mightily. In those starts, his completion percentage would drop to 59.5 percent and he would throw 13 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, including four games with two or more.

Looking ahead to the 2019 season, there once again is a lot of excitement surrounding the Wisconsin Badgers football program, but this season it is for different reasons. At this point, just about the entire Wisconsin fan base has put their hopes and dreams onto the shoulders of the incoming freshman quarterback, Graham Mertz. Considering how 2018 ended for Alex Hornibrook and the potential that Mertz has as a starting quarterback, we can only assume that these were two huge factors in his decision to transfer.

Given the hype and his accolades, the consensus starting quarterback in 2019 amongst the Wisconsin Badger faithful would be Mertz, and for good reasons.

The quarterback position at Wisconsin is one that they’ve struggled to fill with top-tier talent. Outside of a one year rental in Russell Wilson, the quarterback play has been underwhelming as a whole. But Mertz is expected to change all of that.

Out of the state of Kansas, Mertz is the highest rated quarterback to sign at Wisconsin in the school’s history. He is a four-star recruit, rated as the third-best Pro-Style quarterback in the class of 2019 and number 102 overall.

As a starter his Junior and Senior seasons, Mertz racked up 7,561 passing yards and an incredible 96 touchdown passes. He also led his high school to a state championship and was named Kansas’ Gatorade Player of the Year for 2018.

Even before the news came out that Hornibrook was transferring, Mertz was expected to challenge him for the starting quarterback role. But even for a player of Mertz stature, that is a lot of pressure to put on a true freshman.

Perhaps the player most forgotten about in all of this is the backup quarterback, Jack Coan. Similar to Mertz, he was a highly touted recruit out of high school, rated as a four-star player by Rivals and posted some ridiculous numbers. Over his high school career, Coan threw for almost 9,800 yards and would add 128 touchdown passes, along with being named New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Last season, Coan would see some action for the Wisconsin Badgers as he appeared in five games and completed 60.2 percent of his passes with five touchdowns to three interceptions. But much like his predecessors, the Badgers offense under Coan lacked explosiveness in the passing game as he averaged only 5.5 yards per attempt.

While Mertz may be the easy choice for most, I still believe this is Coan’s job to lose. He has a strong quarterback pedigree and the one clear advantage he has over Mertz is experience, which can go a long way.

If through practices Mertz consistently shows that he is far ahead of Coan, then he should get the start in week one. However, if it is close, the tiebreaker should go to Coan and his experience.

Without a doubt, the thought of Mertz under center is quite exciting and if he doesn’t start week one, it doesn’t mean we won’t see him at all. Especially if Coan struggles, it’ll be difficult for head coach Paul Chryst to keep Mertz on the bench.

Next. Badgers continue to struggle at the free throw line. dark

With that said, Mertz is still young and making sure he is 100 percent ready before making him the starting quarterback will be better for the Wisconsin Badgers in the long run.