NSD Grades: Offense

MADISON - Signing eight offensive players with an average Fox Sports Next star rating of 3.25, Wisconsin filled some gaps and built for the future on the offensive side of the ball. Badger Nation hands out the grades based on personnel, needs addressed and overall recruiting performance.


With five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster and one committed for 2014, Wisconsin didn't need a quarterback to fill out its 2013 recruiting. But it became evident as the recruiting cycle went along that Wisconsin wanted a signal caller, as Bret Bielema and Company offered 10 quarterbacks, but saw each of them turn UW down.

One of the first decisions Gary Andersen made when viewed the recruiting chart was get the Badgers in position to add a quarterback. Andersen quantified those comments by saying he felt good about the quarterbacks in the program and felt that group was going to have good competition, but the injuries that piled up at the position the last couple years were hard to ignore.

"As coaches, we're going to want to create as much competition as we can at every position," said Andersen, "and put ourselves in a position to be as successful as we can."

After striking out with Michael Julian (Toledo), Andersen found a gem on the junior college route in Tanner McEvoy, who picked the Badgers over Florida, Oregon and West Virginia.

"Tanner can run very well, hurt you with his leg, hurt you with his mind and hurt you with his arm, and that's exactly what we're looking for in a quarterback," said Andersen. "Coach Ludwig does a tremendous job of adjusting the offense to the players in the scheme. With Tanner, he can run and I've watched the men in the program the first four or five workouts (and) they can run, too."

Wanting to possibly run a little pistol and zone-read offense to force the defense to play honest, Andersen wants to mix up offenses to allows the quarterback to be more effective in the passing game.

After throwing for 2,264 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 1,196 yards and 14 touchdowns as a high school senior, McEvoy passed for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns, while throwing just six interceptions, this past season at Arizona Western, completed 67.1 percent of his passes.

Andersen was largely responsible for sealing the deal, which included flying out to Arizona for an in-home visit the same day McEvoy left Madison following his official visit.

"Coach Andersen really spent a lot of time with me," McEvoy said. "I appreciated that obviously. That was different than most places with the head coach really taking the time to talk to me."

Andersen also secured walk-on commitments from quarterbacks Joe Ferguson (Madison Memorial) and Conor Senger (Milwaukee Pius ). McEvoy appears to be a solid find for Wisconsin after beating out some stiff competition.

Wisconsin needed to add to the depth at the position after losing three seniors following 2013. Finding a JUCO player with three years remaining is a good fix.

Grade: B

Running Backs

Wisconsin offered 10 tailbacks during the recruiting cycle, but one would argue that it got its top target in Corey Clement. A Semper Fidelis All-American, Clement finished his career with 6,245 rushing yards, 34 rushing touchdowns and 90 total TDs.

"Corey is going to fit so very well within that (running back) room. He's tough and he's physical," said Andersen. "He has unbelievable goals he has set for himself, just like the other young men in that running back room. High expectations for himself. There are high expectations for running backs at the University of Wisconsin, so he'll fit in there well."

Andersen is of the same belief of Bielema that the best offenses have either two or three healthy running backs involved in the game. Clement will battle with redshirt junior Jeff Lewis for that third spot right behind senior James White and redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon.

"I am excited about him and what he can do," Andersen said of Clement. "He has great speed, he has great vision, he catches the ball very well and has the ability to make you miss at the point of attack. He's very intriguing."

Wisconsin likes to take at least one tailback per recruiting cycle and running back coach Thomas Hammock deserves a lot of credit for Clement, especially after the four-star back originally committed to Pittsburgh.

In-state prospect D.J. Spurling will walk on at Wisconsin and will start at fullback. After what has occurred the last 48 hours, maybe it was best that the Badgers didn't get Alex Collins and the baggage that comes with him.

Grade: A

Wide Receiver

Wanting to add some play-making receivers to this class, former receivers Zach Azzanni helped Wisconsin in that department early by focusing all his attention on and getting a verbal commitment from four-star receiver Rob Wheelwright at the end of April.

"He's big, he's tall, he's physical wide receiver, runs well, has ability to make you miss out in space," said Andersen. "It will be important for him to develop that mindset. We've got to have a big play receiver that can get out and when he catches the ball, catch contested balls. Rob does a nice job with that."

Wisconsin tried to get another elite receiver to add the fold, but was presented with one during high school summer camp. Jazz Peavy's speed and coachability earned him a scholarship at the camp, which he promptly accepted.

"I think Jazz will come in and give us some added depth and a future wide receiver who will be a very good football player," said Andersen.

Wisconsin didn't miss on many prospects because it got the two players it desired early. Now will be key if those two produce.

Grade: B

Tight Ends

Tight end wasn't a high priority position for Wisconsin with seven scholarship players – including the 2012 Big Ten tight end of the year Jacob Pedersen – still on the roster, but the Badgers were smitten with a couple of prospects early. Scott Orndoff committed in August 2011, but de-committed when Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph left for Pittsburgh and picked the Panthers.

UW tried to get involved with Adam Breneman (Penn State) and Jake Butt (Michigan), but those two were pretty set. It turns out that all the moves cleared the way for T.J. Watt to step in and earn a full scholarship, which he promptly accepted.

"He's a very, very good athlete," said Andersen. "He reminds of an athlete I had at Utah who starts for the Baltimore Ravens in Paul Kruger. Paul as a quarterback in high school, very much the same body type. It's going to be interesting to see how he develops."

With Watt taking the full scholarship, the Badgers were able to go after Troy Fumagalli and, despite full offers from Minnesota, North Carolina State and Syracuse, committed to walk on at Wisconsin for two years before being put on full scholarship. His name has yet to be announced by UW.

Because of the depth ahead of them, both players will be afforded time to develop and get stronger.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

Recognizing the importance of the offensive lineman in Wisconsin's scheme and seeing the amount of big bodies that play in the Midwest, Andersen has the idea of signing four or five offensive linemen every year. With Wisconsin having only 10 offensive linemen in the program, the Badgers adding three linemen helped close the gap in that depth.

Wisconsin was originally only going to bring in two players – Jack Keeler and Matt Miller – and have Hayden Biegel grayshirt; a move that would allow him to add more weight to his frame without losing a year of eligibility. That changed when Biegel and Andersen met for an in-home visit and Andersen was impressed by Biegel's physical stature.

"I looked at him and I was like, ‘holy cow that is a good looking young man,'" Andersen said of Biegel, who has added roughly 60 pounds since the end of his junior season. "I go back to the days with his dad when his dad was at BYU, and there was a little bit of a relationship back there in the past. We're very happy to have him. I feel very good about him and the direction that he's headed, the way he's changed his body really over the last year is very impressive."

Miller, who earned his offer at camp, will likely play on the interior while Keeler, a former prep teammate of Dan Voltz who has over 25 scholarship offers, will likely play tackle.

"I am very excited about all three of them," said offensive line coach T.J. Woods. "I think that we'll be watching them play a lot on Saturdays around here. That's encouraging. If you touch on their personality, I think the one thing that rides through all three of them is they have a passion for football. They want to be good. They are coming to be a part of a great offensive line and to continue a tradition that has been set here."

Wisconsin also added Medford (Wis.) lineman Ben Hemer, the younger brother of Ethan Hemer, as a preferred walk-on.

These players are good, but Wisconsin missed out on a lot of talented Midwest and East Coast prospects, including four players to Notre Dame, two to Michigan, one to Michigan State and one to LSU. Had UW made the right hire on the offensive line and had a coach with the right vision on the recruiting trail, the Badgers and their tradition shouldn't lose out to some of these prospects.

Grade: C+

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