Badgers' McEvoy could be used at multiple spots

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MADISON--Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen hasn’t been shy about experimenting with his personnel in an effort to get the team’s best athletes on the field, even if their roles are limited or foreign.

The latest example: junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy, whose job description continues to evolve.

Speaking during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference Tuesday, Andersen revealed that McEvoy, who opened camp as the No. 3 quarterback and has been spending the bulk of his time at wide receiver recently, could be used on defense, too.

“He is still going to do some things at quarterback, without question,” said Andersen, who makes his UW coaching debut at 11 a.m. Saturday against visiting Massachusetts. “That is something we want and Tanner wants.

“But he is going to be involved as a wide receiver. We’ll see him in some different positions. He is so athletic we need to get him on the field.

“It is not out of the question that you may see Tanner back there doing a few things in even some defensive situations.”

McEvoy played wide receiver and defensive back as a junior at Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. He recorded three interceptions and 49 tackles and caught 35 passes for 550 yards and three touchdowns that season but was switched to quarterback as a senior.

Because he is listed at 6 feet 6 inches, McEvoy is an ideal candidate to help defend Hail Mary passes for UW.

“He is a very talented young man,” Andersen said. “He wants to get on the field and he wants to play.

“His time at quarterback may be ahead of him. We’ll see how it goes. But he is talented enough and he is definitely smart enough to affect the game in a positive way on Saturday.”

Andersen moved reserve tailback Jeff Lewis, who was No. 4 on the depth chart, to safety before camp opened. Although that move didn’t pan out and Lewis was moved back to tailback it demonstrated the staff’s determination to maximize the talent on the roster.

That trait was obvious from the start of spring practice.

Senior safety Dezmen Southward, the lone returning starter in the secondary, lined up all over the field depending on the package devised by defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

Southward played deep safety. He was the No. 1 nickel cornerback and covered a slot receiver. He was used as a blitzer.

Yet when UW deploys the nickel package against UMass, redshirt sophomore Darius Hillary is expected to be the slot cornerback, with Southward at safety.

“That is not surprising at all,” Southward said. “That is one of those things where I am still in nickel. But at the end of the day you have to break down film, and within the defenses that you want to take into the game you have to see where people will be best suited for the team to have success.

“So as of right now, in this game, I need to be back at safety to help us do certain things that we want to do. That is not to say I’ll never play nickel (cornerback). I am sure throughout the season there will plenty of games I’ll start and play a lot of nickel….

“We are moving players around to where we feel we’re going to get the best matchups. It will be like that week to week. You’ll see subtle changes in play-calling. You’ll see subtle changes in where players line up.”

Linebacker Chris Borland will feel those effects.

During his news conference Monday, Andersen noted Borland, who will start at inside linebacker, will be used as an edge rusher in certain packages.

Borland was the Big Ten freshman of the year in 2009 in part because his productivity as a rush end in UW’s 3-3-5 scheme.

The staff became leery of using Borland in that role after he missed most of the 2010 season because of shoulder injuries. However, he has missed only two starts in the last two seasons, both in 2012 after suffering a hamstring injury.

Borland is eager to rediscover living on the edge.

“That is how I got my start and I had some success at that position,” he said. “I’m comfortable. It is a lot of fun.”

Borland excelled in that role for several reasons.

He used quickness to get around the corner on most offensive tackles and, listed at 5-11, he generally was able to bend and stay below their pad level.

In addition, he developed an effective spin move and never stopped pursuing the ball.

“I think my height can be an advantage, getting low,” he said. “I was taught some good pass-rush moves while I have been here.

“But it is a pretty simple position, too, and that is why guys can excel at it early in their career.”

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