- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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For years, the job description for Wisconsin quarterbacks has read: game manager, adept at handoffs and play-action, accurate passer in limited opportunities, careful with the ball at all times, mobility not required, playmaking skills optional.
The gig is about to change.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Badgers will start Tanner McEvoy in next week's season opener against LSU in Houston, and the choice signals an important shift in offensive philosophy under coach Gary Andersen. The Badgers are asking more from the quarterback position.
McEvoy's athleticism is undeniable. The guy played wide receiver and made three starts at safety last season after briefly competing for the top quarterback job in camp. Questions remain about his passing skills, and he has no experience as an FBS quarterback after transferring to Wisconsin from Arizona Western College last winter.
If Wisconsin wanted experience, it would have picked Joel Stave, who has made 19 starts the past two seasons and boasts 3,598 pass yards and 28 touchdown passes. If Wisconsin wanted the status quo at quarterback, Stave would be the obvious choice. And based on most practice reports, picking Stave over McEvoy based on performance would have made sense, too.
But McEvoy was coach Andersen's guy all along. Andersen wants more mobility and playmaking skills from the quarterback spot, and the 6-foot-6, 222-pound McEvoy provides it. Andersen wants more than one ball-carrying option in the backfield along Melvin Gordon or Corey Clement.
Tom Minnick, who coached McEvoy at Arizona Western in 2012, said Andersen had seen what a mobile quarterback could do at Utah State (Chuckie Keeton) and wanted McEvoy for the same reason.
McEvoy must prove himself as a passer, especially with a mostly anonymous receiving corps. He struggled throwing the ball last summer, but showed improvement this spring and in camp.
"He's got a weird throwing motion, but he was very accurate," Minnick said. "He got the ball there, and his arm’s very strong."
Before camp, I was fairly certain McEvoy would be the starter for the LSU game. But Stave's performance seemed to change the narrative, and you wouldn't have blamed the coaches for going with experience against LSU.
But this is about Wisconsin's future on offense, not its past. In McEvoy and dynamic freshman D.J. Gillins, Andersen has made it clear that the days of the statuesque quarterback at Wisconsin are over.
The key for McEvoy is to replicate some of the things his predecessors delivered -- namely limiting turnovers -- while adding a dual-threat element to the offense. His first assignment undoubtedly will be a tough one, and few would be surprised if Stave also sees the field against LSU.
Wisconsin always will be a haven for running backs and offensive linemen, but the quarterbacks should be a bigger factor going forward. McEvoy is the first of the new Badgers quarterbacks, but he won't be the last.