The Wisconsin Badgers will have a new player under center in 2014. I understand this is a bold statement considering summer practices are still far off and Joel Stave has much more experience. But I am a firm believer in Tanner McEvoy’s ability and more so in how much head coach Gary Andersen values him. McEvoy is making the switch from No. 17 to No. 5 this year as he switches back to his natural position.
Andersen is already greasing the wheels of this transition at quarterback by saying this quarterback competition “will be a fight.” It is extremely early in the 2014 “season,” as the Badgers just played their Spring Game, but here are eight reasons why the quarterback competition is already over.
8. He’s Andersen’s Guy:
Andersen brough in McEvoy as a transfer last year. He is the first quarterback Andersen ever brought to Madison. If you don’t think that matters, you’re kidding yourself. Last year, Stave’s experience as a freshmen and the Badgers’ depleted defensive backfield impacted the quarterback competition. McEvoy moved to safety to help the team but this year, he’s back at his natural position. Not to mention, Stave didn’t exactly tear it up as the starter last year. He was good but rarely great.
7. The Loss Of Jared Abbrederis:
This may seem like a silly reason at first glance but think about it; Abbrederis is gone. The Badgers have no proven wide receivers and this offense needs every bit of explosiveness it can get. That is if it wants to get back to a top bowl game in 2014. Thus, having McEvoy, and his scrambling ability on the field, will be a huge asset in the absence of a top wide receiver. With Stave, the Badgers are less explosive because he’s not a threat to take off and continually burn a defense with his legs and elusiveness. If the Badgers don’t have a wide receiver or two step up in a big way they will need the extra burst that McEvoy offers. Just think if they have both.
6. He Fits Andersen’s System:
Andersen has spoken at length about how his ideal offensive system includes a more versatile option attack. He longs for a mobile quarterback that can mesh with the Badgers’ unparalleled running game. McEvoy fits that system in every possible way. He is ridiculously faster than Stave and seemingly has better instincts on when to take off and run. Imagine the Badgers faking a jet sweep to Corey Clement and then McEvoy taking off on an option play with Melvin Gordon III. Is there a defense in the country that could handle that play called multiple times a game? With Stave the Badgers can’t execute Andersen’s ideal offensive system.
5. His Play In The Spring Game:
Yeah, yeah I know. It was only the Spring Game. But still, he was quite impressive. He showed accuracy on an impressive 27-yard touchdown pass to Kenzel Doe. If that wasn’t reason enough to be excited, he took off and ran for a touchdown as well. Not since Russell Wilson has Wisconsin had a quarterback who can find the end zone with their feet as well as McEvoy can. He broke another long run during the Spring Game, too. As expected, Andersen had some good things to say about McEvoy’s play in the Spring Game.
“He’s proven through spring that he’s gotten better every day,” Andersen said of McEvoy. “He threw the ball well. He showed you what he can do with his feet.”
4. Both Quarterbacks are Juniors:
Both Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave are redshirt Juniors with two years of eligibility remaining. Thus, starting one over the other based on remaining eligibility goes out the window. Both will be on campus for this upcoming season and the next. So it’s not as if starting one over the other would give Bucky an advantage in the coming years. For that reason, the only factor that needs to be considered about which quarterback will start this year should be talent. In that department McEvoy simply has more than Stave. Bart Houston has a huge arm and is only a sophomore but like Stave, isn’t mobile and doesn’t fit Andersen’s ideal system.
3. Looking To The Future:
The future at quarterback in Wisconsin may rest in the hands of D.J. Gillins. No matter which quarterback starts in 2014, Gillins should redshirt this year. Then in 2015 he could sit as a freshmen and then have, potentially, three years as the Badgers’ starting quarterback from 2016-18. The reason why the future will be better if McEvoy starts this year is because of the offensive style that will be played. If McEvoy starts for the next two years, then Andersen’s ideal offensive system will have been in place for two full seasons before Gillins takes over as the starter.
That would be five years of Andersen’s system being in place. If Stave starts, Andersen’s ideal option-friendly offensive style will be delayed for two more years. And it will be somewhat of a shock everyone on the roster when Gillins finally takes over. If Gillins does become the starter in the future that is. I think it’s a safe bet but some may disagree. Plus, Andersen can recruit for his offensive system for two years leading up to the Gillins era while putting out a similar product on the field the whole time; unlike if Stave is the starter. The future is now for Wisconsin football and that future includes running quarterbacks.
2. Stave’s Struggles:
Stave struggled with accuracy last season. Plain and simple, that’s a tough thing to struggle with when you’re a D-1 starting quarterback. The Badgers play numerous high-profile games every year and there is little margin for error if you want to win those games. Accuracy cannot be a consistent issue like it was last year for the Badgers. Wisconsin’s 9-4 record would have been better if Stave wouldn’t have struggled with his accuracy. In 2013 he managed only three games where he didn’t throw an interception all year. Yikes.
And I haven’t even mentioned Stave’s injury problems yet. For a quarterback, having an injured shoulder is one of the worst injuries you can have. It’s alarming that Stave is still out with his shoulder injury and Andersen has to be taking a very serious look at McEvoy — and the others. I wish Stave well, I hope he gets healthy. I am a big fan of his game and think he would be an incredibly valuable backup for this team to have. He’s shown that he can win games and he’s shown a lot of grit. But for this season and the direction of this team, McEvoy just makes more sense as the starter.
1. His Skill Set:
The physical tools that McEvoy possesses are rare. He’s the most Russell Wilson-like quarterback we’ve had wear the cardinal red and white since Wilson was drafted. But the difference is; McEvoy is 6-foot-6. That’s right, he’s an athletic specimen that can run and seems to have better control of his arm this year. That combination will give Big Ten defenses fits all year. Plus, defenses will have to account for his running ability which will open up the middle of the field for the tight ends and running backs looking to catch the ball out of the backfield. If defenses ignore McEvoy’s scrambling ability he will burn them in a way Stave cannot.
There is a reason why South Carolina originally brought in McEvoy, why he had offers from Michigan and Miami (FL) and why Florida and Oregon both tried to bring him in as a transfer. Thankfully, he chose to come to Madison. Now is his time to show why he was so coveted. He did good last year at safety, made 27 tackles and intercepted a pass, but he is a quarterback. And this year he won’t just be a quarterback…he’ll be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback.