On the beat: Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook doesn’t have an arm-strength problem

Whenever I hear or read an evaluation of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s skill set, it seems to come with a caveat that is inescapable: his supposed lack of arm strength. This criticism has existed throughout his career and was particularly loud last season, when he competed with strong-armed quarterback Bart Houston.

Now that Hornibrook is a redshirt sophomore who is the only quarterback on the roster with in-game experience, it’s even easier to critique his every move. The rationale appears to be that Hornibrook’s lack of a strong-enough arm will somehow prevent the Badgers from reaching the College Football Playoff.

In my mind, this idea is a fallacy.

Arm strength is undoubtedly an important trait for a quarterback. But to suggest that Hornibrook lacks an arm strong enough to make every throw on the field is incorrect. I have seen in practice and in games his ability to hit receivers at every level, to fire a fastball into coverage, and to air a ball out for a lengthy gain downfield.

Hornibrook, too, has been asked about this criticism and remains adamant there is no throw he can’t make. For starters, he has improved his overall strength since he entered the program. But what really matters is refining technique, timing and accuracy, as well as reading defenses and understanding coverages. In those areas, Hornibrook excels. If he needs to rear back and make a deep throw but doesn’t think he can put enough juice on the ball, he simply lets the pass go earlier and it arrives at the same time. In fact, that’s exactly what he told me in March.

Is he a perfect quarterback? No. But who is? I remember when former Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson faced criticism in the lead-up to the 2012 NFL Draft because he wasn’t considered tall enough to be a starter in the pros. His response sounded a lot like Hornibrook’s rebuttal: it’s all about timing, accuracy and finding lanes for his receivers. Things have worked out pretty well for Wilson.

Hornibrook and Wilson are obviously very different players, and Wilson put together the greatest single season by a Badgers quarterback. Hornibrook likely won’t reach that level, but as long as he remains confident in himself and plays to his strengths, Wisconsin should be just fine this season.

Completions are the name of the game for a quarterback, and Hornibrook had many in the season opener against Utah State (15 for 23 for a career-high 244 yards). If not for a few drops, he may have had one of the all-time completion-percentage games at Wisconsin.

So rather than focus on what Hornibrook doesn’t have, look at all he brings to the table. And with an opportunity to start upwards of 40 more games in his career, plenty of wins should follow.

The post On the beat: Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook doesn’t have an arm-strength problem appeared first on Land of 10.

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