An Unexpected Impact

Tanner McEvoy (Fleming/13)

He came to Wisconsin wanting to compete for the starting quarterback spot, but sophomore Tanner McEvoy is currently making his impact as a Badgers safety, making four tackles against No.4 Ohio State Saturday.

MADISON - From the moment he started recruiting him, head coach Gary Andersen knew Tanner McEvoy was the kind of athlete who could immediately make an impact on the field for Wisconsin with his speed, agility and athleticism.

But making tackles and getting significant repetitions on the road at No.4 Ohio State? Not even Andersen projected that's where McEvoy would be making his first contributions in the Badgers program.

"Who would have thought that in July, huh?" Andersen said. "We needed to get some athletes on the field. We really thought that. (Defensive backs coach) Bill (Busch) and I kind of communicated about that early in the game. Thought it would give us an opportunity to get as big and as long and as fast as we could in the back end at all the different positions we were playing.

"Tanner had practiced well. To throw him in the moment was definitely risky, to say the least."

The risky move provided dividends with McEvoy making his first four collegiate tackles – tied for fifth on the team – and holding Ohio State to 119 yards below its season average in Wisconsin's 31-24 loss Saturday.

"I started to feel like I was getting in a rhythm," said McEvoy, who hasn't played safety since high school. "Playing safety again, it's all about rubbing the dust off."

McEvoy came from Arizona Western College to compete with sophomore Joel Stave and senior Curt Phillips for the Badgers' starting quarterback job in fall camp. When McEvoy struggled to learn the playbook and fell off the pace, the coaching staff put the 6-6 target at wide receiver, a position he played until his junior year of high school.

After the regular season started, McEvoy, who was slowed by a left wrist injury that prevented him from excelling at offense, started working at safety, making his debut in a 41-10 victory over Purdue Sept.21.

Playing five-to-eight snaps against the Boilermakers, McEvoy became a part of the game plan against the Buckeyes to create flexibility at safety. Wanting to move sophomore safety Michael Caputo closer to the line of scrimmage in an outside linebacker role, McEvoy rotated in on series with redshirt freshman Leo Musso Saturday.

"Since I just switched positions, every day I learn a new thing and try to get better each day," said McEvoy. "Just like practice and games, there's more reps and I need to get better. It was good to get out there and just play in a game like situation."

Andersen said Monday he was impressed with the way McEvoy has improved as the season has progressed despite his wrist injury and the disappointment of not playing quarterback. His teammates echo those sentiments.

"I think he's a good player (and) a good athlete," said Stave. "He just wants to help this team. Whether it's at quarterback, wide receiver or safety, I think he's a good athlete and can do a lot for us."

"I am just here to help the team win," added McEvoy. "I still consider myself a quarterback and if you ask the coaches they'd say the same thing. For right now, it's the situation I am in. I am playing safety and I am enjoying it."

Part of that enjoyment comes from his teammates. After being in three different college locker rooms in the past three seasons, McEvoy has found a group that's easy to want to be a part of.

"I love those other schools I was at, but this is by far the best chemistry in a locker room," said McEvoy. "The seniors are great, all the players around them are great, all the coaches are just good guys. You can tell everyone is disappointed, but you can tell we're going to come back."

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