Wisconsin football fans were told not to worry when it came to Gary Andersen's ability to recruit. On Monday afternoon, anyone who still had their doubts was silenced when junior college recruit and four-star quarterback Tanner McEvoy made it official—he will be a Badger next season according to 247sports.
Andersen didn't even have to wait until National Signing Day to land his biggest target since becoming the head coach at Wisconsin. McEvoy, the No. 1 rated dual-threat quarterback among JUCOs, picked the Badgers over Oregon, West Virginia and Florida.
Reports were that McEvoy didn't hit it off with Florida head coach Will Muschamp, another coach to get in on McEvoy late, leaving the door open for the Mountaineers and Badgers (via Jason Perdue). In the end, Madison made a lasting impression on the soon-to-be sophomore, who will add his name to the already crowded list of players competing for the starting quarterback position at Wisconsin next season.
Joel Stave, Curt Phillips and Bart Houston all figured to have a fair shot at winning the job, but with McEvoy in the mix, consider the competition over already—Tanner McEvoy will start for the Badgers at quarterback next season, and there are several reasons that back up that claim.
It's only fitting that the Badgers bring in an outsider to play quarterback. In 2011, it was North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson who won the job and never looked back in becoming the most prolific QB in Wisconsin history. Last season, Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien tried to have a similar impact, and things didn't go quite as smoothly.
In the end, Stave, Phillips and O'Brien combined to have the least amount of passing yards in the Big Ten last season.
So for the third straight year, there is a legitimate chance—even though McEvoy is technically a recruit—that a quarterback who wasn't on the Wisconsin roster the year before could start the following season.
At 6'6", McEvoy has been clocked running the 40-yard dash between 4.5 and 4.6. That means for the second time in three years, the Badgers will have a quarterback in camp who has exceptional speed.
But we don't really know what Andersen and new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will do with the offense, especially with McEvoy at the helm. For all we know, Wisconsin could primarily run the spread formation and abandon the pro-style offense all together.
It seems dramatic, but Andersen has changed offensive philosophies based on his personnel, including last season at Utah State when he used a spread offense with dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
In high school, McEvoy played almost primarily out of the shotgun, which could support the argument that the spread offense will be very much in full effect next season in Madison.
In his lone year at Arizona Western College, McEvoy had a 68.1 percent completion percentage and threw for 1,813 yards, 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also rushed 49 times for 252 yards and three touchdowns, showing his ability to keep the defense honest while remaining efficient through the air.
When you look at the quarterbacks now set to compete for the starting job this year, Wisconsin will have sophomore Joel Stave, freshman Bart Houston and senior Curt Phillips all vying for the nod along with McEvoy. That's quite a cluster of quarterbacks, but only one of them was recruited by Andersen.
Houston is a 4-star recruit himself out of De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., and he was forced to redshirt last season due to shoulder surgery. He was already back practicing with the team towards the end of 2012, and his Badger debut was highly anticipated, but his recruitment goes all the way back to current Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.
Should Houston lose out on the QB battle, he could very well follow Chryst shortly thereafter.
Stave turned some heads as a walk-on freshman last season, taking over for a struggling O'Brien, and he was able to inject a winning attitude into the Badgers. In games he finished, Wisconsin went 5-0, and overall Stave completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,104 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions before his unfortunate collarbone injury.
For orchestrating Wisconsin's turnaround last season, Stave certainly deserves a fair shot at the starting gig in 2013.
Finally, there's Phillips, the sixth-year senior who closed out the season at quarterback for the Badgers. Coming out of high school, Phillips was also noted for his dual-threat ability, but three knee surgeries later, his running ability has diminished.
Still, Phillips was able to bust out a few lengthy runs in 2012 and put up decent numbers in the passing game. He truly believes to have a shot at starting in his final year and riding off into the sunset, but the addition of McEvoy makes this prospect seem rather unlikely.
McEvoy is Andersen's guy—the first-year head coach of the Badgers has no real connection to any other quarterbacks on the roster. Not only that, but McEvoy just brings more to the table with his athleticism and speed.
Imagine having McEvoy in the same backfield as James White or Melvin Gordon. That's quite a bit of speed for defenses to account for, and it's not as if McEvoy can't throw the football. Even if he is meant for another position like some scouts persist, his rare combination of height and speed for a quarterback has to have Andersen drooling at the mouth.
Being Andersen's only QB recruit is enough to give McEvoy a leg up heading into the spring, but his attributes, future potential and above-average ability to make plays simply outshines the other quarterbacks currently on the roster.
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