Former New Jersey star quarterback poses problems at multiple positions for Rutgers
Tanner McEvoy was the 2010 Player of the Year in New Jersey as a quarterback in his senior season at Bergen Catholic High School.
He amassed 3,460 yards of offense and accounted for 46 touchdowns as a dual-threat quarterback. The season and award are impressive accomplishments on their own.
But when considering McEvoy put up 1,000 yards on 65 receptions, and scored 13 touchdowns as a receiver in his sophomore and junior seasons, the praise for his athletic achievements rises even further.
“In the recruiting process, he wanted to be a quarterback,” said Kyle Flood, head coach of the Rutgers football team. “So that’s really the most of what I remember about that situation.”
Now a fifth-year senior at Wisconsin, McEvoy has bounced around to three college programs.
After beginning his collegiate career at South Carolina as a quarterback, he was buried behind a host of Steve Spurrier’s hand-picked signal-callers, prompting a transfer to junior college program Arizona Western for a year before ultimately winding up at Wisconsin.
“When you put it in that perspective, my whole journey's been kind of crazy," McEvoy told espn.com’s Jesse Temple.
Believe it or not, it got even crazier in Madison.
McEvoy was brought to the Badgers (6-2, 3-1) as a quarterback by then-head coach Gary Andersen, starting the first five games in 2014 before giving way to current starter, senior Joel Stave. This season, head coach Paul Chryst is using the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder anywhere he can.
The Hillsdale, New Jersey, native has taken snaps from center, rushing for 81 yards on 10 carries out of the Wildcat formation, lined up at wide receiver (four catches, 40 yards) and played predominantly at safety, where he has tallied 26 tackles and collected an interception, returned for 41 yards.
McEvoy is an athlete, one that the Scarlet Knights (3-4, 1-3) are going to have to account for when they take on Wisconsin this Saturday in Madison. The Knights will have to adjust to the packages the former quarterback is on the field for as he continues to adjust to whatever role he’s asked to play.
"Every day, I feel more comfortable," McEvoy told espn.com. "It's been quite a ride, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Rutgers redshirt-freshman Kevin Wilkins is familiar with McEvoy’s athletic acumen. The defensive tackle and Don Bosco Prep product played against the Badgers’ two-way player in the United Division of New Jersey’s Big North Conference.
“He was a great player in high school,” Wilkins said. “Whenever we prepared at (Don) Bosco, we always prepared for him because we saw him as a threat.”
The threat is still very real for Flood and the Knights' defense, which has struggled against spread offenses in 2015, surrendering 559 yards of offense to Washington State on Sept. 12, 627 yards to Indiana (Oct. 17) and 528 yards to No. 1 Ohio State last Saturday.
“I know this — they think very highly of him," Flood said of the Wisconsin coaching staff. “They’re the ones working with him on a day-to-day basis.”
Wilkins will be one of the defenders tasked with stopping McEvoy when he’s lined up on the offensive side of the ball. The defender has made an impression for Rutgers, standing tied for third on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and half a sack in his first collegiate season. Wilkins will call on his high school experience to diagnose the former-Crusader's tendencies.
And he is aware that when McEvoy comes in under center, the defense needs to perk up.
“He’s a great player,” Wilkins said of McEvoy. “We were watching film, studying him and he’s still a good player in college now.”
For Flood, all anyone needs to know about McEvoy’s ability is where the coaching staff is willing to play him. Chryst’s confidence in the fifth-year senior speaks to his raw athletic ability.
“They’re playing him on defense, they’re playing him on offense at receiver, they’re playing him on offense with the wildcat,” Flood said after practice Wednesday. “When you do that with a player, you’re devoting a lot of time during the week to that player and you only do that if you feel like he’s an absolute difference-maker. So there’s no question that’s what that staff thinks.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @KevinPXavier and @TargumSports on Twitter.