Tanner McEvoy Debuts Strong as Two-Way Starter


Last week, I wrote that we would be seeing Tanner McEvoy break out against the Miami Redhawks in the Badgers home opener, a game that we were to see McEvoy start at both wide receiver and safety. Tanner McEvoy might not have been the star of the game, but he definitely showed how valuable he will be as a two-way player moving forward.

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McEvoy did indeed start at both wide receiver and safety, and put up a good performance at both positions. On offense he totaled three receptions for 29 yards and a rush for one yard (from the quarterback position). Defensively, he grabbed his second career interception and added a tackle and some nice plays in the defensive backfield, as well.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

McEvoy became the first Badgers player since Brandon Williams in 2003 to have a catch and an interception in the same game, a feat that he credited to taking the most of the opportunity presented to him when asked about it following the game.

"“It’s definitely unique. You don’t see it every day. But I see it as an opportunity. I got to make the most of this opportunity that I’m getting. Coach believes that I can go both ways, and physically I felt good today, which was nice. It was a good opportunity, it was fun to do.”"

The three catches represented the first receptions of his career as Tanner McEvoy has now started two games at wide receiver, four games at safety, and five games at quarterback in his Wisconsin career. That versatility intrigued head coach Paul Chryst from afar when he was at Pittsburgh, and once arriving back in Madison, he quickly found a way to get McEvoy involved more.

"“I think Tanner is a guy that’s — he’s got great football intelligence, and I think he’s a talented football player, and I think he’s a guy that can help make us different offensively and defensively. We were able to do some different things in the back end defensively, and I think that was in large part due to — you saw his range on the long one toward the student section where he kinda broke it up. He’s just a headsy player, and I think he can still give us some things offensively that we can continue to build on and grow from.I enjoy watching him. I thought he was a blast in practice, he was shuffling both sides and doing everything, but he’s got it, and I think he can help us, and we need him.”"

McEvoy said he felt comfortable in the role as a two-way player, saying the work in practice all week prepared him for the two-way grind.

"“Absolutely, that’s what practice is for. We were working the system in practice, and it was interesting to see how it played out. It was a little new to all of us. We were just going out there and focusing on communicating with the coaches and making sure I was ready to go on each play.”"

Luckily for the Badgers, now that Michael Caputo is back on the field, Wisconsin has the luxury of moving McEvoy around wherever they need him. With Caputo and Leo Musso looking strong at safety and Robert Wheelwright emerging as a legitimate No. 2 option next to Alex Erickson at wide receiver, the Badgers can pick their spots to use McEvoy so as to not burn him out or get him hurt.

"“Yeah, because that was one thing that Tanner and I talked about Friday, and didn’t know, and I don’t know if today we knew. It was a beautiful day today. Rob (Wheelwright) was giving us some stuff at the receiver spot. Tanner felt like he could have done more, and it will be interesting to look back and see how many plays he played, but it’s something we’ve got to find out, what the volume is he can handle. I’m guessing in the low 70s or something. (Laughter.)”"

McEvoy had similar thoughts, saying his conditioning held up for the most part.

"“I felt like it went fine. Our goal going into it was communicate and just be honest with the coaches and just not go out there and be winded. Luckily, with a few TV timeouts at the right time, I didn’t feel at any point overwhelmed.”"

Tanner McEvoy proved on Saturday that he both can and should be on the field as often as possible in whatever role the Badgers need him to play. Especially at this early point in the season the Badgers need to get him as comfortable as possible in both positions so that come Big Ten season he’s firing at all cylinders. McEvoy can be that X-factor that helps the Badgers return to the top of the Big ten West.

Chryst offered some final thoughts about McEvoy following Saturday’s game, saying he appreciated the hard work and the willingness to be versatile that McEvoy has displayed so far this season.

"“Guys play a lot of football and do different things. Probably only a couple have played offense and defense, but it was — I think he needed to do that for us, for us to be the best, and he’s capable of it, and that’s what you appreciate from him and you like about him.”"

The Badgers will look to continue growing the role Tanner McEvoy plays for the team when they host Troy next week.

Next: Final Thoughts from Badgers-Redhawks

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