Badgers' McEvoy making up ground at QB

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
5:00
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It would be easy to look at new Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy and think that if he doesn't win the starting job, he could always move to receiver or tight end.

McEvoy is 6-foot-6, after all, and he runs well. Some recruiting sites, including ESPN.com, pegged him as a future receiver in college. But McEvoy has no plans on moving positions.

[+] EnlargeTanner McEvoy
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMINew Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who started his career at South Carolina, is competing to start for the Badgers in 2013.
"I think my receiver days are over," he told ESPN.com. "I think I got a little slower and lost my hands a bit. I haven't run a route in a while. I don't know if I still have the legs."

He is dead set on remaining a quarterback, even if it's a position he hasn't known all that long. McEvoy lined up as a running back most of the time in youth football before becoming a receiver in high school. A coaching change before his senior year led to him playing quarterback for the first time his final season at Bergen (N.J.) Catholic. It was obviously the right choice, as McEvoy threw 32 touchdown passes and earned a scholarship to South Carolina.

After a redshirt year with the Gamecocks, he found himself buried on the depth chart behind Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, so he headed off to Arizona Western College for one season. So, if you're counting, McEvoy has had only two seasons of game experience as a quarterback, none above the junior college level.

"I know it sounds like a short amount of time," he said. "But I've made strides every year. And at South Carolina, going against that starting defense every day, that will help anyone at the position. And playing for coach [Steve] Spurrier helps, too."

He's also obviously a quick learner. At Arizona Western, he completed over 67 percent of his pass attempts while throwing for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. McEvoy had all kinds of FBS suitors and his final choices included Oregon, Florida and West Virginia before he chose Wisconsin.

He did so knowing that the Badgers had a bunch of signal-callers vying for the No. 1 job, including senior Curt Phillips and sophomore Joel Stave. Redshirt freshman Bart Houston and senior Danny O'Brien were in the mix, too, when McEvoy signed, though O'Brien has since transferred. McEvoy arrived in Madison this summer needing to catch up to frontrunners Phillips and Stave.

"No matter what school I picked, there were always going to be other great quarterbacks I'd be competing against," he said. "I am obviously a little bit behind, but that's what I signed up for. During the summer, I tried to teach myself as much as I could, and the guys helped me a lot, too."

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, who was a junior-college All-American himself back in the day, has promised to give McEvoy a fair shot at winning the job during preseason practice.

"Anytime we recruit a junior college player, he's going to be given the opportunity to walk into fall camp and compete and get reps with the ones and twos," Andersen said last month. "It will be a three-man race. ... And we may jog out there the first play of the game with two quarterbacks on the field and see what happens from there. So who knows? It will be interesting."

McEvoy said he feels comfortable with everything the Badgers have installed so far during practice and is doing his best to keep up.

"Maybe I've been a split second behind on a couple of throws," he said, "but that's just going to take time. I'll keep working on that every day."

Despite his learning curve, McEvoy has a potential edge in the race with his athleticism. Andersen has made it known that he likes mobile quarterbacks, and McEvoy fits that bill perfectly. Just don't look at him as a potential receiver, because he's focused solely on trying to be the Badgers next quarterback.

"They're giving me a chance just to compete, and that's all I'm looking for," he said. "Nothing is going to be handed to anybody. I've just got o go out there, compete every day and learn the offense, limit mental errors and play how I know I can play."

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