A Klein clone could emerge in Madison
Gary Andersen's first offseason in Madison became a little more interesting with the news that Wisconsin had landed a junior-college quarterback with a unique skill set.
Tanner McEvoy, who was highly pursued by a variety of programs, chose the Badgers on Monday and will enter a very crowded quarterback derby in preseason camp.
The 6-6, 215-pound New Jersey native, who narrowed his choices to Wisconsin, Florida, Oregon and West Virginia, originally signed with South Carolina but transferred to Arizona Western College after being buried on the Gamecocks' depth chart during his redshirt freshman season.
But in his lone season at Arizona Western, McEvoy completed 68 percent of his throws for 1,813 yards and 24 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He also rushed 49 times for 252 yards and three scores. McEvoy helped his team defeat Nassau Community College 42-37 in the El Toro Bowl on Dec. 1, as he completed 18 of 24 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns.
A year away from the FBS did nothing to scare away potential suitors, and the Badgers have landed a transfer quarterback for the third straight offseason.
So what does this do for Wisconsin's crowded quarterback corps, especially after McEvoy left South Carolina because he couldn't move up the depth chart?
Well, Andersen has options under center with three players returning who started last year. Danny O'Brien didn't quite revert back to his 2010 ACC newcomer of the year form, so young Joel Stave and oft-injured veteran Curt Phillips received looks at the position. Andersen also inherits Bart Houston, who was a highly regarded recruit in the Class of 2012 and who redshirted this past fall after suffering an injury. And Jon Budmayr, who was supposed to take over for Russell Wilson, will once again try to get healthy after dealing with multiple arm issues.
If one of the aforementioned players emerges and learns Andersen's system quickly, perhaps McEvoy won't be needed in 2013. But he does have three years of eligibility remaining. And he has one thing that no current Badgers quarterback has besides Phillips: very good mobility. In fact, he is more dangerous because Phillips has had three surgeries on his ACL. Don't think that McEvoy didn't watch tape of Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton excelling in Andersen's offense the last two seasons.
The size-speed combination with McEvoy is rare, which should bring up a lot of comparisons to former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season.
Klein's rise to fame was notable because he was once relegated to receiver and special teams duty before his breakout 2011 season. And while Klein will never be mistaken for John Elway or Dan Marino, he continued to improve as a passer throughout his college career despite having an odd delivery and low arm angle, much like McEvoy.
With McEvoy, the Badgers are getting a similarly athletic player who many recruiting analysts believed would not develop as well at quarterback as he could have at another position coming out of high school. But while throwing the football is priority No. 1 for an FBS-level quarterback, having a great set of wheels is becoming a more important trait than ever before in highly evolving offenses. Overall, McEvoy has a decent enough arm to be successful in Madison.
If McEvoy falls short in the Badgers' quarterback derby, Andersen could still find a way to get the athlete onto the field potentially as a wide receiver or H-back or in a variety of trick plays. Simply put, he gives Andersen and his assistants another offensive weapon.
And that's never a bad thing for a new staff.