Tanner McEvoy was named the starter of the No. 14 ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Friday, a week before their biggest game of the year. The Badgers open their season against the No. 13 ranked LSU Tigers. While Badgers coach Gary Anderson was supposedly going to wait until the game to name his starter, sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that McEvoy is their guy.
By choosing McEvoy, the staff is prioritizing athleticism. At 6-foot-6 and 222 pounds, McEvoy should be a statue, but he’s mobile. Once a starting quarterback at Arizona Western, McEvoy moved to starting safety after transferring to Wisconsin last season. The athleticism he exhibited at safety makes him a dual threat at quarterback. It’s a quality that Anderson and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig value. McEvoy’s competitor Joel Stave was a strong and experienced passer. But had he been named the starter, McEvoy would have seen time in sub-packages. Instead, they have a quarterback in McEvoy that never comes off the field.
It was wise the staff chose him when they did — and perhaps they should have done so sooner — because the news came as a surprise to many. McEvoy had been the underdog in the competition and may need to settle into his new role. The move protects him from the press, who would have had a field day if McEvoy had been named starter the night of the game. All the attention would put more pressure on McEvoy. He’s going to be busy preparing for LSU’s defense — he doesn’t need any distractions from the press.
Like fellow Big Ten team Ohio State University, the Badgers’ 2014 schedule looks a lot like a trip to the beach. Aside from LSU, Nebraska, Iowa and UCF pose the biggest threat, but all three are fringe Top-25 teams. So if McEvoy can make it through the LSU game with some dignity, the competition will be downhill from there — precipitously downhill.
If he can’t find success against LSU — particularly in leading the passing offense — Anderson may be quick to insert Stave into the game. A win against LSU to start the season would establish Wisconsin as College Playoff Contenders. Wisconsin would be willing to do just about anything to get the win.