Safety, Quarterback, Wide Receiver — those are the positions former JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy has played since coming to the Wisconsin Badgers in 2013. The problem is, McEvoy has never really found a home in his first two seasons.
He’s played just a handful of games at quarterback, started a few at safety and has had minimal snaps as a wide receiver in game action. It makes finding a true home for him in his senior season a true priority during fall camp.
There’s little denying his athletic ability, as McEvoy is one of the biggest and fastest players on the Badgers roster. It’s that unique combo of height, size and speed that made him so intriguing when he arrived on campus.
In 2013 the Badgers coaching staff tried using him as a wide receiver, only to switch him over to the defensive side of the ball and watch him do some late-season damage as a safety.
Last season, then head coach Gary Andersen wanted to see that athleticism put to use as the quarterback he was recruited to Wisconsin to be. It was a decision that affected UW’s season in ways few saw coming.
McEvoy’s ineffectiveness in the passing game was evident from Week 1, as he was not able to keep the Badgers offense moving with his arm in a game that could’ve been won against LSU. It got so bad that by partway through the fifth game of the season Andersen had no choice but to pull the plug on the McEvoy experiment at QB.
He finished last season going 65 of 112 for 709 yards, while also throwing for just nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. McEvoy did add 574 yards and six touchdowns on 65 carries in the rushing game, showcasing an ability to do damage in the open field.
This season it appears that McEvoy is going to be a two-way player, using his athleticism at positions that need it most — safety and wide receiver. Back in the spring it was assumed the wide receiver experiment was not going to happen, as McEvoy saw the vast majority of snaps at safety and solidified a potential starting role there.
As fall camp came in to vision, head coach Paul Chryst made it know that this camp was all about wide receiver for McEvoy. Not only can it give McEvoy another chance to showcase his athletic skills, the flat truth is the Badgers need a major dose of athleticism and anyone to really step up to the plate at wide receiver.
The good news for Badgers coaching is it appears McEvoy is more than ready and capable of upping the ante at wide receiver. In the first practice of the 2015 fall camp, McEvoy shined brightly in the pass catching and team drills on Monday.
He caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave and was frequently burning any and all cornerbacks for deep receptions. Add in a 40-yard and a 15-yard reception from Stave and McEvoy showcased the one thing missing last season — the ability to back defenses out of eight-man boxes.
Chryst was more than impressed with the effort, but it was more than just what had gone on on the field in one fall camp practice.
“I think he’s a big body that can run and has really good hands,” said Chryst in his post-practice press conference. “I think he’s got a good football IQ. In the spring, he did a ton of safety work and I think he feels comfortable there. There’s some details at the wide out spot he’s got to get. We think he can help us on both.”
While it was just the opening practice, the fact that the former quarterback and now starting quarterback had that good of chemistry together is a good thing. Plenty of receivers have been given opportunities, yet few have taken them and literally ran with them.
On the first day of practice there was one true standout on offense, and that being McEvoy bodes well for the future of this team in 2015. Now it is on the senior to turn that head-turning performance in to consistent results throughout camp.
Should that happen, perhaps the Badgers have found the secret weapon next to Alex Erickson.