Turns out the Wisconsin Badgers will not go quietly into the weekend. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday that Tanner McEvoy will start at quarterback in Wisconsin's season-opener vs. LSU on Aug. 30. The report comes as a considerable surprise, as while head coach Gary Andersen has remained coy about UW's quarterback situation, most camp observers agreed that Joel Stave was generally more impressive. Andersen also said earlier this week that the Badgers wouldn't publicly name a starting quarterback before the opener.
McEvoy is a redshirt junior who transferred to Wisconsin from Arizona Western College (JUCO) prior to last season. The 6'6, 222-pound New Jersey native is much more of a mobile quarterback than Stave, and that skill set actually landed him at safety last season when he was unable to unseat Stave and Curt Phillips at quarterback. McEvoy was solid there (11 games, three starts, 27 tackles and one interception), but he was switched back to quarterback in the spring. Stave sat out much of the spring after injuring his shoulder in the Capital One Bowl, allowing McEvoy a fair share of first-team reps.
Many believed an optimal situation, and perhaps the most likely one prior to Friday's news, would be to have Stave, the more powerful and experienced passer, start and receive the majority of the reps at quarterback, while McEvoy had a selection of sub-packages available to him. That could've also, potentially, allowed McEvoy to remain at safety.
The flip side is that Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig have long prized an offense with the ability to stretch defenses laterally, and a mobile quarterback is vital to the success of that system. Aside from Russell Wilson's 2011 season, Wisconsin hasn't typically featured a mobile quarterback in its offense.
We'll surely hear more about the quarterback situation in the coming week. It also seems wise to remember that while McEvoy may be the "starter," it's unlikely that his leash is very long. Considering Stave's experience and superior throwing mechanics (McEvoy also has a somewhat quirky 3/4 release), he could see the field quickly if McEvoy struggles. Let's also not rule out the possibility of both quarterbacks seeing the field vs. LSU by design -- perhaps the Badgers would like to employ those McEvoy packages early on and see how he looks as a dual-threat quarterback. That could keep the Tigers off- balance early on, and then maybe Stave could come in to hold on to/build a lead in Wisconsin's highest-profile game of the season.
That situation, of course, remains to be settled. For now, though, the early word is that McEvoy is QB1 for the Badgers.