Tanner McEvoy to take UW's reins
MADISON—Other than saying quarterbacks Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave both deserve to play this season, Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen has been coy about who will start the opener against LSU on Saturday in Houston.
According to three sources, the staff has decided to start McEvoy, a redshirt junior who transferred to UW last season from Arizona Western College.
“Both those kids are still right there,” Andersen told reporters Monday, after the team’s second scrimmage of preseason camp. “Like I said a long time ago, we may know who the starter is, but we’re not going to say who the starter is until we jog out on the field for the LSU game.
“There’s no big announcement.”
McEvoy worked at quarterback last summer but struggled and eventually moved to safety. He played 10 games at safety, with three starts, and impressed the defensive coaches.
He returned to quarterback in the spring and closed the spring with the No. 1 offense after Stave was sidelined because of pain in his right shoulder, which he injured in the Capital One Bowl.
McEvoy, 6-foot-6 and 222 pounds, passed for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 414 yards and six touchdowns in his lone season as the starter at Arizona Western.
Before the season at Arizona Western, he redshirted in 2011 at South Carolina.
“Obviously, Tanner is a good player,” Stave said recently. “He wouldn’t be in this position if he wasn’t.”
Stave, a graduate of Whitnall High School, started all 13 games last season and has 19 starts overall. He passed for 2,494 yards and 22 touchdowns but also had 13 interceptions.
Unlike McEvoy, Stave is not a threat to run. He rushed 37 times for minus-22 yards last season and suffered the shoulder injury in the bowl game when he failed to slide at the end of a short run.
Not all practices in camp have been open to reporters, but Stave performed better than McEvoy in Week 1.
McEvoy rallied in Week 2, however.
“What summer is for is to get stronger and faster,” McEvoy said earlier in camp. “I think I accomplished that, as well as getting reps with all the receivers. I feel OK. There’s definitely a lot more room for improvement. Spring is spring. It is what it is.
“Fall camp is when it really counts. I’ve got to pick it up and do better than what I was doing in the spring. My only goal is to try to take that No. 1 spot and take it from there.”
Andersen has made it clear he covets a quarterback who can make plays in a variety of ways.
His last starting quarterback at Utah State, Chuckie Keeton, was an outstanding dual-threat performer.
Keeton started eight games as a freshman in 2011 and in 28 games overall has passed for 5,961 yards, with 56 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has also rushed for 1,153 yards, 4.6 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns.
Keeton passed for 186 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 75 yards in a 16-14 loss to UW in 2012, Andersen’s final season with the Aggies.
“A lot goes into that,” Andersen said in explaining quality quarterback play to fans who attended the second scrimmage. “Pre-snap awareness, the ability to check the run (and) the ability to make plays with his arm, with his mind and with his legs.”
Andersen reiterated UW missed too many opportunities to make big plays last season.
“We missed too many layups last year,” he said. “When it is there and it’s given to you on a platter, you’ve got to take advantage of it.
“If you don’t, it will cost you. It will cost you big.”
With the choice of McEvoy, it appears Andersen is betting UW can cash in more often than it did in 2013.