Why QB Nick Evers is transferring and what it means for Wisconsin

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Why QB Nick Evers is transferring and what it means for Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — On the December day 16 months ago when Nick Evers announced his transfer to Wisconsin, it felt like the football program was having a moment. As in, a moment akin to “The Office” scene when Michael Scott opens his door and yells, “Oh my God. OK, it’s happening.” The addition of Evers, one year removed from being a top-10 quarterback in the 2022 recruiting class, represented one of the first major dominoes of the Luke Fickell/Phil Longo era and appeared to signify a raising of the bar for the position under a new coaching staff.

But Evers closed his chapter at Wisconsin on Saturday after spring practice with unmet expectations, announcing his decision to enter the transfer portal for a second time. The portal officially opens on Tuesday. The move did not come as a surprise given that Evers, for a second consecutive season, wasn’t in the competition for the starting quarterback job and had been working with the third-team offense. Evers never took a first-team offensive snap during the 30 practices that were open to the media throughout last spring, preseason camp in August and the first seven practices this spring.

Evers, a former four-star prospect, was a source of constant inquiries from fans because his athleticism and presumed ability to be a threat in the RPO game under Longo presented a different dynamic from the other quarterbacks. His arm strength and knack for making plays on the run also stood out. During the first spring practice under Fickell last year, Evers delivered a perfect pass down the left sideline in skeleton drills for a 40-yard gain, showcasing part of the skill set that could make him special.

It was one of the few instances in which Evers successfully aired the ball out down the field during his time at Wisconsin. The natural question in the wake of his decision to leave the program is: What happened?

Evers’ interest in Wisconsin began in November 2022 — before Fickell or Longo were hired — when he talked to then-Badgers defensive back Avyonne Jones, a high school friend from Texas. Although Evers was the first transfer quarterback to commit to Wisconsin, he certainly wasn’t the last. By the time spring practices began, Wisconsin also added SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai and Mississippi State transfer Braedyn Locke. Mordecai immediately elevated into the starting role, while Locke was the backup.

Evers, who had thrown just one pass during his redshirt season at Oklahoma, still was a raw prospect. Longo made it clear that “knowledge equals reps,” and that Evers’ grasp of the offense was not where it needed to be. Evers last spring praised Longo’s ability to develop quarterbacks, which was a big reason Evers picked Wisconsin in December after 42 programs reached out to inquire about him while he was in the portal. He said he had spent what he called countless hours each week in the film room with Longo trying to earn his reps. But he also took responsibility for not putting himself in a better position to succeed.

“Different offenses, terminologies, that was a little bit slow for me to begin with,” Evers said. “And I was battling some issues just transitioning from school to school and moving far away from home. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I need to be better. I should’ve prepared a little bit harder for the spring. I’m working through those mistakes, and I feel like I’ve been in a better spot recently than I have in the past.”

Evers did not play last season, even after Mordecai missed a month with a broken right hand and the offense struggled with Locke as his replacement. This offseason, with Mordecai using up his eligibility, Wisconsin again hit the portal to add Miami transfer Tyler Van Dyke. When spring practices began, Van Dyke and Locke were the quarterbacks competing for the starting job based on snaps. Evers, meanwhile, found himself splitting third-team reps with freshman early enrollee Mabrey Mettauer.

Evers earned praise from teammates this spring for the progress he had made, and he appeared to be more comfortable with the offense during practices. Locke said, “From a knowledge standpoint, I think he’s made up a lot of ground from last year, done a really good job of I would say kind of obsessing over this stuff.” Van Dyke cited Evers’ strong arm and ability to make off-platform throws and noted that “his ceiling is through the roof.”

But Longo, despite saying good things about Evers earlier this spring, clearly did not see Evers as a viable candidate in the quarterback competition. Time will tell whether Evers deserved a better opportunity.

“Nick definitely is a different product right now than he was last year,” Longo said. “You would hope you’d see the progress over the course of a year. And we are. He’s doing some things better. He’s making some better decisions. Obviously, he’s athletic, so he’s been making some plays with his legs as well. So that’s what we want. We’ve got to keep grinding now with him to make more progress and get him to where we would want him to be.”



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Evers was not made available to reporters on the day Longo and his top two quarterbacks spoke to reporters. Evers did not respond to messages seeking comment after his transfer announcement.

Wisconsin will finish out the spring with three healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Evers’ transfer means Mettaeur likely will handle all the third-team snaps. Redshirt freshman Cole LaCrue is not participating in practices this spring while recovering from a second surgery in as many years. The only other quarterback slated to be on the roster for 2024 is walk-on Milos Spasojevic.

The Badgers could choose to pursue a portal addition with a younger prospect to fill out depth but will rely on Van Dyke and Locke to carry the load. Beyond next season, Wisconsin has a commitment from Locke’s younger brother in the 2025 class, Landyn Locke. Fickell has said he does not want to consistently rely on one-year transfer quarterbacks for the program.

It would be easy to say that Evers had only just arrived at Wisconsin and should have stuck it out for a longer stretch before seeking a third school in as many seasons. But there simply did not seem to be a realistic path toward playing time barring multiple injuries ahead of him. Braedyn Locke was in the same class as Evers and was clearly ahead in the pecking order. Even Mettaeur was earning more snaps — and certainly more passing opportunities — than Evers. Standing out with a third-team offense that featured four walk-on offensive linemen added to the challenge.

One of Evers’ final throws at Wisconsin came during practice Saturday when he provided a glimpse of his potential by rolling out to his right and firing a bullet to walk-on receiver Alex Moeller for a first down. Evers publicly announced his transfer decision four hours later.

(Photo: Mark Hoffman / USA Today)