By GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — There is no quarterback drama going into preseason camp this year for Wisconsin.
Coach Paul Chryst likes how Alex Hornibrook handled the offseason work and responsibilities that come with spending the summer knowing that he would be the starter. And as if the summer wasn’t memorable enough for Hornibrook, the left-handed sophomore also got to meet his childhood idol, Peyton Manning, after serving as a counselor at the former NFL quarterback’s summer passing camp.
The next step for Hornibrook is to take command of the offense from the first snap of the first practice on Saturday for a team that once again has high hopes in the Big Ten.
“One thing I’ve always been impressed with Alex is his approach. He’s willing to spend a lot of time trying to improve physically, and the mental part of it,” Chryst said Friday at Badgers media day. “I really like where Alex is at right now yet … there’s a lot of room for growth.”
Hornibrook had a promising freshman campaign after taking over as starter for senior Bart Houston in Week 4, a 30-6 win at Michigan State. Houston had just edged out Hornibrook for the starting job out of last preseason camp.
As the 2016 season progressed, Chryst used Houston more as a change-of-pace quarterback. But Hornibrook remained the starter until having to miss the Big Ten title game with a concussion.
Hornibrook finished the 2016 season completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions, not bad for a freshman. He developed a knack for making touch passes in tight windows.
With Houston out of eligibility and two freshmen behind Hornibrook on the depth chart, there really wasn’t much drama about the quarterback job. Chryst settled any questions in spring practice.
Still, after going through a quarterback competition last preseason, Hornibrook has one less thing to worry about this year.
“I think it definitely decreases all the outside distractions,” Hornibrook said at Camp Randall Stadium. “When that’s not really a concern, you can focus more on yourself, focus on getting ready through this fall camp and game weeks.”
He has a pretty good story to tell teammates after meeting Manning. Hornibrook was one of about 40 quarterbacks who worked with kids in the morning before the counselors turned into students working with Manning and his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, in the afternoon.
Hornibrook described the camp as one of the “coolest experiences” that he’s had in his football career. He was especially grateful for tips from Manning about watching film.
Receiver Jazz Peavy said the confidence-building moments of the past year have carried over into the preseason for Hornibrook.
“He’s gained that confidence because he knows he’s established himself as that guy,” Peavy said. “He’s supposed to be our starter, so he carries himself that way.”
OTES: Michael Deiter, the Badgers’ best offensive lineman, has been moved from center to left tackle. Presumed starting RT Jacob Maxwell is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is not on the opening training camp roster, so David Edwards is sliding from the left side to the right side. The Badgers must replace All-America LT Ryan Ramczyk, who was taken in the first round of the NFL draft by New Orleans. Deiter who has played center and guard in his career, spent three days in spring ball at tackle. “The transition wasn’t all that bad. It was just good enough to do it a little more and see if I can truly play tackle,” Deiter said. … The move means that freshman Tyler Biadasz will open camp as the first-string center.
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