Wisconsin Football: Badgers' Top Priority on National Signing Day

Dave RadcliffeContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2013

Photo courtesy of 247sports
Photo courtesy of 247sports

In a sense, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is starting from scratch all over again.

Of course, Badger football is in much better shape than that of Utah State when he took over that program four years ago, but Andersen wants to make some changes in Madison. As we know, this will take time, as fans will have to be patient while waiting for Andersen to recruit his style of players and allow them to develop.

That transition will begin Feb. 6 on national signing day, which is suddenly just a week away. 

Andersen was handed the reins to Wisconsin football on Dec. 19, giving him roughly six weeks to try and get in on recruits from the class of 2013 who were still undecided on where to play. The Badgers already had 18 players committed before Andersen took over, and one of those players has reopened his search as a result of the coaching switch.

Since then, Andersen has locked down a few lesser-known prospects, but he is still looking to make a noticeable splash leading up to national signing day. That splash could turn into a tidal wave if he cashed in on his latest top priority, junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy. 

McEvoy, rated as a 4-star recruit and the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class according to 247Sports, is making a visit to Wisconsin on Jan. 30 and is due to visit Florida on Feb. 1. He has also made the rounds to Oregon and West Virginia. 

Last season with Arizona Western College, McEvoy completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,813 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

At a towering 6'6" with excellent speed, McEvoy is projected to be a wide receiver or tight end at the next level according to this ESPN scouting report, but those are the type of athletes who have been excelling in spread, pistol and even pro-style formations as of late.

Because Wisconsin, along with Florida, will be the latest schools McEvoy has visited, Andersen has an opportunity to make a final lasting impression on the former South Carolina Gamecock, who would have three years of eligibility remaining.

The opportunity to attend Madison has to be enticing for McEvoy for a number of reasons. The most obvious is Andersen's experience with running a spread, option-based offense, a style that appeals to McEvoy more than Wisconsin's typical power running game setup.

Andersen has said in the past that his running of a spread option last season at Utah State was a result of adjusting to personnel, and that the power running game would still be very much in full effect in 2013.

Even so, those who believe that having a dual-threat quarterback automatically leads to a spread attack need to look no further than new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who used two different dual-threat quarterbacks in a pro-style offense at San Diego State.

That being said, he also produced Ronnie Hillman, a 1,700-yard rusher in 2011 who now plays for the NFL's Denver Broncos.

And if people believe dual-threat quarterbacks must play in a spread offense to have success, look at Wisconsin's 2011 season when Russell Wilson used his effective scrambling ability while the Badgers maintained their pro-style, run-first approach with Montee Ball.

Considering the record-setting ways of that Wisconsin offense two years ago, Badger fans probably wouldn't mind going down that route again with McEvoy should Andersen convince him to sign on at Madison.

When taking into account Wisconsin's fluctuating quarterback situation, you have to figure that McEvoy would have a great chance to seize the starting gig. While many would like to see redshirt freshman Bart Houston get a fair shot at the job, Andersen didn't recruit Houston, nor did he recruit Joel Stave, who is the favorite to reprise his role in 2013, or Curt Phillips, who was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Then there are the other offers on the table for McEvoy, beginning with Oregon. Not only is Marcus Mariota a freshman with a stronghold on the quarterback position, but former head coach Chip Kelly has bolted for the NFL since McEvoy's visit to Eugene on Jan. 11. It wouldn't appear to make any sense for him to become a Duck unless he was considering a position change.

West Virginia has to be enticing for McEvoy considering the departure of Geno Smith for the pros, and Florida could also be appealing even with sophomore Jeff Driskel in place because of his inconsistent play. But the competition is heavier at Florida considering Driskel and some of its recent quarterback commits, and the Mountaineers, a team that essentially has to start from scratch, are high on Ford Childress, who is just a freshman.

Wisconsin isn't exactly high on anybody at the moment, which is exactly why McEvoy needs to strongly consider Madison as his next destination. It's his best opportunity to be a starter for the next three years, especially when considering how he'd be the only quarterback on the roster that Andersen recruited.

It's an exciting prospect for Wisconsin to be in the discussion for Tanner McEvoy, and with the quarterback situation a huge unknown for the Badgers, he is their top priority on national signing day.