Juggling safeties Tanner McEvoy, Michael Caputo pays off for Wisconsin

Mike McGinnis

First-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has done a terrific job implementing the Badgers' 3-4 defensive scheme, particularly with the latest personnel moves involving Tanner McEvoy and Michael Caputo.

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda deserves a ton of credit for his work through UW's first six games. That includes not only the smooth transition in implementing the new 3-4 scheme, but his play calling and personnel decisions, as well.

One of the best moves I've noticed from Aranda thus far has been the decision to move Tanner McEvoy into the starting safety role opposite Dezmen Southward, bumping Michael Caputo from safety to an outside linebacker/nickel back role.

We've seen the Badgers mainly run this package their past two games, facing the spread offenses of Ohio State and Northwestern. It'll be interesting to see if Aranda and the coaching staff continue to ride this out as their main package the rest of the season, or if they opt to switch back to their more traditional version of the 3-4 with Brendan Kelly returning to starting outside linebacker.

I'd prefer the former, given how seamlessly McEvoy has filled in at Caputo's spot, which is rare but awesome to have a safety that stands 6-foot-6, 223 pounds. We haven't quite seen McEvoy's ballhawking potential yet, but he has accounted for four tackles in each of the last two games he's played safety.

"He could have easily gone into a shell, and said, ‘Woe is me,’ and, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ and everything else that could come with it that you see a lot in sports, period. He had none of it." -Gary Andersen on Tanner McEvoy

"It is a tremendous story," Andersen said Monday in reference to McEvoy switching to safety from quarterback. "It's another story on this football team of unselfishness and care factor and want-to for the kids on the team and University of Wisconsin, because that's what Tanner has. He could have easily gone into a shell, and said, ‘Woe is me,’ and, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ and everything else that could come with it that you see a lot in sports, period. He had none of it."

Not to mention, Caputo has played extremely well this season and fits nicely in his new position. He has the skills to adequately cover receivers in the slot but is rock solid in the run game, too. Captuo -- and really, most of UW's defensive players -- has also been great at timing his jumps at the snap of the ball when he's coming on blitzes.

Too many times last season we witnessed Wisconsin linebackers get burned in coverage. I mean, how often did we have to hear about former UW linebacker Mike Taylor getting beat on a wheel route? The combination of the new 3-4 scheme and personnel decisions has corrected many of those mismatches. Caputo is the perfect hybrid to play both pass-rushing and run-stopper roles, as well as a skillful cover man.

Andersen mentioned at his Monday press conference that the team has moved Caputo to the F linebacker position, which he said is "just an attempt to get more skill on the field and be able to run better as a defense, which we need and we're going to need it again this week.

"Michael coming down against the spread team puts another better athlete into the field as a whatever you want to call him, a down safety or an outside linebacker."

Regardless of what prompted the move, it was an ingenious one that has paid off. After holding a Northwestern team that had scored 21 points or more in 19 straight games to a mere six points, it's fair to say Aranda and co. are really beginning to hit their stride with this defense.

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