MADISON - We don’t know where Tanner McEvoy will lineup for the University of Wisconsin this season. It could be as their starting quarterback or one of their starting safeties. That remains to be seen. But what we do know is McEvoy will play a significant role in 2014 no matter where he lands.
The Hillsdale, New Jersey, product was seemingly everywhere for the Badgers a year ago. He battled for the starting quarterback job with Joel Stave and Curt Phillips after transferring in from Arizona Western College. He was never a true challenger due to a lack of knowledge of the offense and was moved to wide receiver. He played there in the opener against Massachusetts, but a hand injury forced another move – this time to safety. Playing defense for the first time since his junior year of high school, McEvoy adapted quickly and ended up starting three games. He finished with 27 tackles, one interception and five passes defended.
Some might think that McEvoy’s year playing safety impacted his development as a quarterback. UW coach Gary Andersen disagrees.
“I would say it’s an invaluable experience,” the second-year coach said. “To get to play (on) those big stages and big moments and make plays. You watched him get better as the year went on. He became more of a leader. His comfort zone was there. It doesn’t matter what position you’re playing, the fact you’ve jogged out of the tunnel, and you’ve played (under) the bright lights, it helps you. So because of that, he’ll definitely be a better player.”
Despite spending the year at safety, McEvoy maintained throughout the season that he came to Wisconsin to play quarterback, and that’s where he wanted to play. Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig assured him he’d be given an opportunity at quarterback in the spring, and that materialized in March. McEvoy was back under center, and with Stave sidelined by an injury, ended the spring as the No. 1 quarterback.
“It was a tough transition as a young quarterback coming here in the fall and getting moved into that,” Andersen said. “It’s a complicated offense that we run. We all know that. There is so much that goes into the run game and so on and so forth. He’s done a nice job continuing to work hard.
“As we go through the offseason him and Joel are competing. D.J. Gillins is excited to compete also. It’s great to have competition. At the end of the day, any good football team has competition.”
McEvoy holds a significant advantage over Stave when it comes to taking off and running when the play breaks down – something UW’s offensive staff desperately wants in their quarterback. But if McEvoy doesn’t win the job, and he ends up back on defense, there might still be times where he could help Wisconsin under center.
“There is an opportunity for an athletic quarterback to possibly walk into those scenarios, if he wasn’t the starter, to be able to play and do some things in a package,” Andersen said. “It’s not a whole new offense. It’s a package, a set period of plays.
“(UW offensive coordinator) Andy (Ludwig) did that with Eric Weddle when we were at Utah. Eric was obviously a defensive player, but he came in and had a package at the quarterback spot that he did very well at. We’ll see who the starting quarterback (is) and then we’ll make those decisions as we go forward.”
Most Important Badgers
1) July 25
2) July 24
3) QB Tanner McEvoy
About the 2014 Most Important Badgers:
This is not a list of the best players on this year’s squad. Instead, we asked a number of ESPN Wisconsin personalities to rank the 15 players that are most vital to the Badgers success in 2014. They were told their rankings should be based on what players hold the key to UW competing for a Big Ten title or more in Gary Andersen's second year as coach. Factors that came into play were past success, what was said about them by their coaches this offseason and what type of season could be expected from that particular player.
The list does not include any incoming freshmen, because we have yet to see them on the field as college players.