When the Wisconsin Badgers landed Nick Evers from the Oklahoma Sooners this offseason, many had high expectations for the former four-star quarterback, whose arm talent and athleticism impressed evaluators in high school.
However, a few months into his Wisconsin experience, Evers has seen limited action in spring ball, competing for the third-string role at the moment, while fellow transfers Tanner Mordecai and Braedyn Locke have held a firm grasp of the QB1 and QB2 roles.
Earlier this week, when offensive coordinator Phil Longo spoke with the media, he alluded to the current quarterback depth chart being Mordecai and Locke at the top, with walk-on Marshall Howe currently at third, due to his understanding of the offense.
After a slow start, is it time to punt on Nick Evers as a potential quarterback of the future?
Not so fast.
Speaking to the redshirt freshman on Friday, Evers himself acknowledged the slow start he had in the offseason, which has led to a different start to his Badgers career than he expected.
“In all honesty, [the offseason] hasn’t gone exactly how I expected it to go. I had a little bit of a slow start in the offense schematically,” Evers said.
However, after the slow start, Evers has been grasping the offense, which has led to significant progress in recent weeks, even if it may seem to the public that he’s behind the learning curve.
“But, I’m working through those issues [and] I feel like I’ve made massive strides these recent weeks,” Evers said. “So, just keep my head down. Trying to grind, stack days, [and] just finding continuous improvement is my biggest thing and hopefully, the opportunity rails itself, but just got to stay grounded, stay true to the grind.”
That mindset led to a Tuesday practice where Evers earned a majority of the third-team reps, although it was an up-and-down day for the redshirt freshman.
Still, it was a good feeling to get on the field and stack up reps, which is the best way to improve.
“Yeah, I feel great [after Tuesday’s practice]. Just being able to get on the field and showcase some of my abilities. There’s obviously things that need to be worked on. Always trying to find somewhere to improve. But, overall, was happy that I was able to get on the field and just trying to stack days like that going forward. [That’s] just been my big focus right now.”
Many have also wondered that, due to the slow start, Evers may consider a transfer from the program.
But, it’s important to evaluate why exactly the redshirt freshman chose to join the heralded program in the first place.
“Man, there’s a lot of things that played into the decision, obviously. I had family that went to school here. My grandparents went here. My dad was born in Madison. I have family in Milwaukee. So being able to have a family structure in my home away from home, it’s been a blessing. And that was one of the main reasons why I committed,” Evers shared.
In addition to his personal connection, Evers’s respect for Luke Fickell played a big role in his commitment.
“Another reason [was] coach Fick. He’s a phenomenal head coach. The things that he was able to do at Cincinnati, being able to develop players on and off the field is something that I admired about him. He’s a very personal developer and he’s just a great head coach to play with.”
But, Evers also had an affinity for his position coach, Phil Longo, given his track record of quarterback development.
“[Another reason was] also coach Longo. His track record with the development of quarterbacks has been phenomenal. My biggest thing was I wanted to find a coach that could develop me as a player and as a person,” Evers said. “Just like the stuff he was able to do [at] UNC and Ole Miss, it’s hard to kind of ignore it.”
Despite what it may seem given Evers’s reps, the quarterback and offensive coordinator actually share a close connection, which has provided the redshirt freshman confidence.
“ Yeah, me and Coach Longo talk a lot. It’s just stuff that I’m going through personally. And just talk about ball, we chop it up a lot. That’s been another focus that I’ve trying to make a big emphasis on,” Evers said. “And yesterday(Tuesday), we had a great conversation just talking about football, trying to figure out plans moving forward, and everything like that. And it was very productive. And I’m just excited to get to work.”
Tanner Mordecai likely enters the year as the starter, with Braedyn Locke seeming like the favorite to be the backup.
Evers has a long road for developing into his full potential, but has the requisite time to accomplish those goals and the right motivations to do so.
Don’t count out the talented redshirt freshman just yet.