When he was named head coach earlier this year at Bergen Catholic (N.J.), Nunzio Campanile’s first challenge was finding a quarterback.
He was formerly the offensive coordinator at Don Bosco Prep (N.J.), Catholic’s archrival and one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier programs. At Don Bosco, he had developed a string of high-profile signal callers. Five in a row had drawn FBS scholarship offers, including Rutgers’ Mike Teel and Tennessee’s Matt Simms.
Campanile had set his sights on producing similar talents at Catholic, though there wasn’t an incumbent capable of filling the role. Instead, he decided to put the team’s best athlete, Tanner McEvoy, under center and let his dual-threat capabilities start a tradition.
The plan has worked to perfection. With McEvoy leading the way, Catholic is 10-1 and will meet Don Bosco, the only team to beat the Crusaders this season, for the state championship in early December.
McEvoy, a recruiting target of South Carolina and many other schools, passed for 163 yards and ran for 184 more, accounting for five total touchdowns in Saturday’s 60-17 win over Seton Hall Prep (N.J.). The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder has thrown for 1,977 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions and has rushed for 1,068 yards (7.5 per carry) and 13 scores this season.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach five straight Division I guys at quarterback and this guy has got as much talent as any guy you’ll find,” Campanile said. “For a guy that’s been a quarterback for one year, how easy it comes to him is impressive. I can’t imagine him not being a tremendous quarterback at the [SEC] level.
“He’s a really multi-talented and dynamic player. The number of different things the kid can do is pretty impressive.”
McEvoy, who has 4.51 speed, pulls the strings for the Crusaders’ spread offense these days, but he was already an all-state performer at wide receiver when Campanile arrived. He has more than 30 scholarship offers, and everybody seems to believe that he fits best at different positions.
Some schools like him as a receiver. Some believe he could become a great tight end. Now some of them are projecting him as a dual-threat quarterback.
“I don’t doubt he can do anything of those things,” Campanile said. “But I’ve been impressed with how well he’s been able to throw it.
“Most of the schools I’ve talked to want to take him as a quarterback. Recruiting runs the gamut of schools like South Carolina to the Boston Colleges with more traditional offenses to the Michigans and other schools like that. They are getting a kid a kid that can run a lot of different offenses. There aren’t many kids that can run it and throw it very well. He can do both.”
Campanile believes that McEvoy has the frame to develop NFL size as a quarterback. If he stays at that position, his prep coach believes he’ll eventually play at 6-6, 230 pounds. Even at 210 pounds, McEvoy’s body has held up to the pounding he consistently takes as a runner.
McEvoy has said that he will take an official visit to USC. North Carolina, Rutgers, Michigan and Boston College are also in the mix for his services.
“I would like to visit all the schools,” McEvoy told The State earlier this month, “and get a feel for them but, you never know, if I like a place, I could commit.”