Wisconsin’s spring game was only 30 minutes. In other words, it was about half of the normal sample size for a regular season game.
Still, there were two things that were huge positives going into the summer.
Even better, both of those positives were major question marks entering Saturday’s scrimmage at Camp Randall Stadium. Corey Clement and Alex Hornibrook had the ideal confidence-booster performances they needed.
It was uncertain how much we’d even see of Clement after his injury-riddled 2015 season. He pushed through a groin injury that he shouldn’t have, he had off-the-field issues, and he was hurt in the Holiday Bowl. If Clement came out and looked a little reserved on Saturday, it would’ve been understandable.
Instead, he did the exact opposite.
Clement only played one series, but he made it count. His burst was back, his acceleration at the second level was back and his home-run play ability was back.
Sure, it was a spring game and Clement wasn’t getting the full defensive treatment. But his opening drive made it feel like 2014 again. He was shifty, explosive and he even threw a stiff-arm at the second level:
The best thing was, that was the end of Clement’s day. The Badger coaching staff might’ve only planned on playing him for one series, and it really couldn’t have gone much better. If they did plan on playing him multiple drives, it was smart to pull him when they did.
After his day was done, Clement told Big Ten Network that he finally feels healthy. It goes without saying that that’s music to Badger fans’ ears.
Also encouraging was the fact that Alex Hornibrook looked better than advertised.
There might’ve been some who assumed that fifth-year senior Bart Houston would run away with the job — I’m guilty —but Hornibrook looked far better throwing the deep ball than Houston did. He had three throws of 40-plus yards, the first of which was his most impressive.
He stepped up in the pocket and dropped this 46-yard bomb for George Rushing to run under:
The pocket presence was the most impressive thing from Hornibrook. His footwork was perfect stepping into that throw. It’s a little easier in a spring game when you know you aren’t going to be hit, but he didn’t get flushed out of the pocket like a lot of underclassmen do.
He looked calm again when he had a blitzing linebacker at the line of scrimmage. Hornibrook stayed calm, looked off the safety and found Rushing again. A missed tackle made this play look better than it was, but it was still another nice display from a redshirt freshman signal-caller:
Hornibrook made plays that were beyond his years, but he also did a few things that reminded you that he was a redshirt freshman.
His ugliest play of the day was in the red zone when he didn’t put enough heat on a ball to the sideline. Keelon Brookins should’ve turned it into a pick-six, but he bobbled it. In a game, that’s a back-breaking mistake that Hornibrook would’ve been in the dog house for.
Plays like that, ultimately, could factor into whether or not he gets the job. Bart Houston didn’t look as polished, but he also didn’t have freshman-like mistakes. Hornibrook might be the quarterback of the future, and he might have more upside. Joel Stave couldn’t make the throws Hornibrook could, and at times, defenses took advantage of that.
But with a healthy Clement, Wisconsin figures to get back to its run-heavy offense. The coaching staff might decide that it wants a game-manager under center. With all due respect to Houston, that could fit his skill set more than Hornibrook’s. Or maybe the Badgers roll the dice with the redshirt freshman and take the good with the bad.
The Badgers have options. If nothing else, Saturday proved that.