Going 3-for-11 last Saturday and 4-for-10 for 55 yards in Wisconsin's annual spring game are modest numbers at best. But what the stats don't measure is the level of confidence McEvoy has shown through the 15 spring practices; a level of poise that has labeled fall camp as a two person race between McEvoy and junior Joel Stave for the starting spot.
"When we walked into spring, it was more of a situation to where I thought Tanner deserved that opportunity and he wanted that opportunity, and he saw himself as a quarterback," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. "I think he's proven through spring that he's continually gotten better. He had a nice day today. He threw the ball well. He showed you what he can do with his feet."
McEvoy showed an improved command of the huddle through stretches of spring practice and during Saturday's spring game, especially in the pocket. During the first half of the spring scrimmage, when stats weren't recorded, he threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kenzel Doe and had runs of 35 and 7, the first coming on a third-and-7 and the second for a touchdown.
McEvoy's pass to Doe was on a fade route, placing the football perfectly and hitting Doe in stride after the senior got a step on cornerback Devin Gaulden.
"It was a great throw," said Doe. "I told Tanner (McEvoy) that he put the ball exactly where it needed to be. I told him to just give me a chance and I will do the rest and he threw it out there and it was just a perfect throw."
McEvoy took all the reps with the first-team offense this past week after Andersen made the decision to shut Stave down. Starting all 13 games a year ago, Stave is still dealing with lingering shoulder problems resulting from a hit he received in the second half of the Capital One Bowl.
Those extra reps have gone to McEvoy, which combined with a full year in the program has allowed the former junior college quarterback to take giant leaps since arriving last summer.
"He carries himself like a quarterback," Andersen said. "I think when he walked in here before he carried himself like a quarterback that was absorbing a very difficult offense and new terminology. So much of the run checks that he has to handle and the demeanor that he carried himself with last August, and the way he carries himself today, is really completely different. You can always have the athleticism ability to throw the football, but you've got to fit within the system, and what I'm most proud about Tanner is he has fit himself in the system."
Now having good command of the playbook, McEvoy says his biggest challenge is not relying on his feet too much in situations where he has open targets down field. After halftime, McEvoy only had three runs, netting a total of nine yards.
"It is just an instinct," McEvoy said. "I try to lean more towards passing when I can. I think there were a couple plays I left out there where I could have passed it instead of run it. But other than that, sometimes you have to do it and sometimes you don't, so I just have to make the right decision."
With McEvoy's solid showing from a passing and running perspective, fans got a glimpse of what the offense could be like with a dual-threat quarterback, the prototype desired by the Wisconsin's coaching staff, under center. But with a national audience tuning in, Andersen is keeping things close to the vest.
"A lot of the offense that you have with an athletic quarterback did not show itself today," Andersen said. "That's by design and there's a lot of things that you can do to open it up if that's the direction, but we haven't spent that time in spring football on that stuff except for the last four or five practices. No need to work with that today."
Should Stave's injury be more serious than Wisconsin is leading on, the Badgers will likely turn to McEvoy, who is starting to play like the quarterback settled into his surroundings.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," McEvoy said. "I think it shows. Hopefully I'm playing like it as well. I can only make more strides so I'm looking forward to the summer and I'm looking forward to fall."