MADISON, Wis. — Tanner McEvoy is set to open the season as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The decision comes just days after Badgers head coach Gary Andersen said he would not make a public announcement regarding the quarterback competition between McEvoy and Joel Stave ahead of the team’s Aug. 30 game against LSU. Stave appeared to be in the lead during the portions of practice that were open to the media through the first two weeks. But McEvoy, apparently, has made his mark since Monday, when the team’s second scrimmage was largely closed to the media.
McEvoy provides the dual-threat presence Wisconsin’s coaching staff has coveted since it arrived in Madison two seasons ago. He passed for 1,943 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions in his one season at Arizona Western College and ran for another 414 yards with six touchdowns. Stave, meanwhile, has minus-73 yards rushing in his entire college career.
"It’s one of the benefits to me playing is having that option," McEvoy said this week. "I use my legs and make plays when things break down. I guess that’s something I bring to the table. I think people know that. That’s kind of my thing."
Stave said this week he felt he’d achieved what he wanted to during fall camp, pointing out his improved balance and pocket presence. Last season, Stave started every game and completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,494 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The 13 picks tied for a Big Ten high, and Badgers coach Gary Andersen said Wisconsin needed to upgrade in the quarterback department, opening up the competition in the spring.
Still, it appeared the coaching staff was prepared to begin the season with Stave under center and use McEvoy in certain option-style packages until recently.
"Obviously, Tanner’s a good player," Stave said this week. "He wouldn’t be in this position if he wasn’t. Being able to use him in the offense, I think, could be very good for us."
McEvoy, a 6-foot-6, 222-pounder, arrived last season and quickly fell behind Stave and senior Curt Phillips on the quarterback depth chart. He broke a bone in his wrist and ultimately moved over to defense, where he became a vital component at safety. He finished the season with 27 tackles and one interception.
When the season ended, McEvoy moved back to quarterback and competed with Stave throughout spring camp. Stave performed reasonably well during the early part of fall practice. He completed 9 of 17 passes for 115 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions during the team’s open scrimmage on Aug. 10. McEvoy completed 4 of 7 passes for 40 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Stave has 19 career starts at Wisconsin and is 13-6 in those starts. McEvoy has yet to throw a pass in a Division I college game. But the coaching staff, it appears, is opting for an unproven talent with a high ceiling.
"Tanner’s gotten exponentially better at calling plays and having more command and confidence as he’s calling the plays," Badgers right guard Rob Havenstein said this week. "I think it comes down to his film study and him just understanding the offense better, which is a testament to him. They both do a great job."