Wisconsin Football: How Position Changes Will Affect Offseason for the Badgers

Dave Radcliffe@DaveRadcliffe_Contributor IIIDecember 20, 2013

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 12: Mike Jensen #80 of the Northwestern Wildcats makes the catch before getting tackled by Tanner McEvoy #17 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half of play at Camp Randall Stadium on October 12, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

At the college level, and even in the pros from time to time, it isn't rare to see a player adjust to a different position in order to benefit the team or even get the most out of the player's abilities.

Wisconsin football seems to make it a yearly tradition, and we're not just talking about high school recruits that are labeled as "athletes." The Badgers have moved players from offense to defense, from defense to offense and everything in between.

And it wasn't just under Bret Bielema. First-year head coach Gary Andersen has done plenty of swapping around, starting in the offseason when he tried running back Jeffrey Lewis at safety, then tried the same thing with quarterback Tanner McEvoy, but not before he shifted him to wide receiver.

Log jams at a certain position will often lead a coach to not only do what's best for his team but also what's in the best interest of the player that he promised playing time when pitching his school. 

After assessing some of the weaknesses on his team, Andersen is at it again as Wisconsin prepares for the Capital One Bowl and its opponent, the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Andersen is doing his best to get the most out of his talent.
Andersen is doing his best to get the most out of his talent.Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of the season, McEvoy suffered a wrist injury, which not only disallowed him from competing for the starting quarterback job but also playing wide receiver, a position many believe McEvoy is destined to play. The sophomore is now back on offense, taking reps at quarterback and planning to be in the mix for the starting job in 2014, per the Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Mulhern

Also on the move as the Badgers anxiously await Jan. 1 is sophomore wide receiver A.J. Jordan, who is now getting work in the defensive backfield.

While Joel Stave, the starting quarterback for each of Wisconsin's 12 games this season, didn't perform poorly, there was still a lot left to be desired. Stave didn't show improvement when it came to going through his progressions, distributing the football and missing open receivers. 

In fairness, it was the sophomore quarterback's first full year as the starter, as he took over in the third game of the 2012 season and saw it cut short because of a broken collarbone.

Even still, that's no reason to entrust Stave with the starting job going into the 2014 season.

You can add McEvoy to what will be a crowded competition for Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to sort out during the offseason. Redshirt freshman Bart Houston and incoming commit D.J. Gillins also figure to be in the mix.

Clearly, Stave will have experience on his side going in, not only from his time as the starter, but also from engaging in previous quarterback competitions. What has won Stave the job before is his ability to perform well in practice, but that may only get him so far next season based on his struggles in 2013.

McEvoy will certainly have his work cut out for him, but assuming the one-time junior college transfer is unable to win out, will he return to safety, a position where he has found a surprising amount of success? Or does McEvoy take another crack at wide receiver, an area the Badgers will be unbearably thin following the loss of Jared Abbrederis?

That's what makes the position change of Jordan rather intriguing. Wide receiver is arguably the weakest position on the Wisconsin offense, even with the presence of Abbrederis, and yet Jordan is making the move to the secondary.

Wisconsin wide receiver stats in 2013 other than Jared Abbrederis
Jeff DuckworthSenior101691
Jordan FredrickSophomore101060
Alex EricksonFreshman81210
Kenzel DoeJunior6540
Rob WheelwrightFreshman290

However, Jordan didn't catch a single pass this season, and the secondary was unequivocally the biggest hindrance on the defensive side of the ball. Andersen was also forced to dismiss true freshman cornerback Jakarrie Washington for a violation of team rules, so Jordan's move to defense may have been the chain reaction.

Jordan measures in at 6'0" and 178 pounds, so while he could stand to put on a few pounds if his move to defense is permanent, he would appear to have adequate size for such an adjustment.

The Wisconsin secondary will get better with another year of experience under its belt despite losing senior safety Dezmen Southward. Sophomore safety Michael Caputo really came on strong for the Badgers this season, ranking No. 2 on the team in tackles, and true freshman Sojourn Shelton was Wisconsin's top cover corner.

Whether or not Jordan will find himself in a prevalent role next season at safety or cornerback remains to be seen, and the same goes for McEvoy at quarterback—or safety or wide receiver.

But it's clear Andersen and his coaching staff are attempting to address areas of weakness by increasing the amount of players in said areas.

Now about that wide receiver position.  


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