South Carolina signed two quarterbacks in the Class of 2011. Yet, neither of them may ever take a snap for the Gamecocks.
Clarke Central (Ga.) quarterback Martay Mattox, an all-state performer in high school, enrolled in January and quickly moved to defensive back. It appears the best chance for USC to find its signal caller of the future lies with Bergen Catholic (N.J.) standout Tanner McEvoy.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder was an all-state wide receiver/tight end/H-back before moving under center for his senior season after quarterback guru Nunzio Campanile took over as head coach. McEvoy threw for more than 2,200 yards, rushed for nearly 1,200 and accounted for 46 total touchdowns in 2010, one season after catching 35 passes for 550 yards.
But there is no doubt that McEvoy’s permanent transition to quarterback is still a work in progress. Though he’s a special athlete – with his 4.51 speed, many recruiting analysts believe he has great potential at tight end or slot receiver – McEvoy hasn’t played quarterback long enough to develop the fundamentals that often take years to hone.
“He’s got the athleticism and the arm strength,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “He just doesn’t have the accuracy and the efficiency right now. He hasn’t played the position long enough to expect that.
“It’s going to be one of those situations where we’ll see if Tanner and the coaching staff are patient enough. He’s going to have to spend a couple of years learning the position.”
McEvoy was certainly an athlete playing quarterback as opposed to a quarterback with athleticism in 2010. He had the tendency to throw off his back foot, and his footwork certainly played a large role in his accuracy problems.
The USC coaching staff will also need to assess his throwing motion. McEvoy throws from his shoulder similar to San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. Though this lowers his release point and makes batted passes more frequent, McEvoy’s height will likely make this a moot point moving forward. If so, that’s one less change he’ll have to make.
“That’s no small task,” Campanile said of McEvoy’s transition into an SEC quarterback. “I’m sure there are a lot of things he’ll have to work on. They’ll find he’s a tremendous athlete and a really quick learner. He understands the game well and is a great competitor.
“I think he’s going to have to continue to improve on the fundamentals. But physically there isn’t a throw he can’t make. He’s got good feet for a guy that hasn’t been playing quarterback for a long time. He’s just going to have to continue to grow.”
Campanile knows the position. As the offensive coordinator at Don Bosco Prep and now as the head coach at Bergen Catholic, he’s now seen his last six quarterbacks earn FBS scholarships, a group that includes former Rutgers standout Mike Teel and Tennessee’s Matt Simms.
Considering his lack of experience under center, the college coaches that recruited McEvoy were impressed that he had developed as many fundamentals as he has, Campanile said. Still, he believes McEvoy needs to improve on his ball protection and understanding of defenses.
Campanile believes that if McEvoy had played quarterback for another season he would have been recruited as heavily by every school in the nation as he was by USC, because “he’s as talented of a guy playing quarterback as there is in the country.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll develop into the franchise quarterback that USC fans are craving. Gifted prospects want to play and it might be easier for McEvoy to break into the depth chart as a pass catcher.
It would be a monumental task for a player like McEvoy, who needs seasoning, to play receiver and still get a full quarterback education, making it unlikely he would be able to transition back and forth during his career. However, Texas A&M standout Ryan Tannehill proved in 2010 that a player can first star at receiver and then also at quarterback later in his career.
“It might be a case where they say, ‘Look, you’re going to have to sit behind this guy for a few years and there’s a 50-50 chance that you’ll play. Or we’ve got this opportunity at wide receiver or tight end where you could help us more immediately. Which do you want to do?’ ” Farrell said. “Then it comes down to what Tanner wants to do. He wants to be a quarterback, but he doesn’t want to be a quarterback like a lot of these other guys who are completely stubborn about it.”