Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford.
|Indianapolis, IN – 5'11", 186|
|Scout||4*, #190 overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#32 ATH, #7 INL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#69 RB, #8 IN
|24/7||4*, #305 overall
#7 APB, #4 IN
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, Indiana, Purdue|
|YMRMFSPA||Dennis Norfleet or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Future Blue Originals vs Brandon Peters.|
Ace and Dave got single-game film from that FBO:
Chris Evans is one of the most unpredictable recruits in Michigan's class. One site likes him a lot, another likes him just fine, and a couple are meh. He listed at three different spots by those sites and could be any of four different things in Ann Arbor:
"[I’ll play] either defensive back, slot, running back."
At Ben Davis, Evans was a heavily utilized all-purpose offensive threat who rushed for over 2300 yards and caught 91 passes for over 1000 yards in his final two years, one of which ended in a state championship. His highlights see him line up in the backfield, in the slot, and on the outside. Meanwhile his seven-on-seven team used him as a defensive back frequently:
…definitely looked the most natural playing cornerback … started his day by making a big interception down the field and then came back with several pass break-ups. …outstanding top-end speed
entered camp wanting to work on his DB skills and did just that. … improved the most out of every position, playing both CB and FS. His vision of the field continued to get better as he intercepted a great deal of passes during 7v7.
Pick an outcome, any outcome. Yes, that is a reasonable outcome.
While a lot about Evans remains uncertain, one thing that's not is his speed. A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals. And caveat-ridden, "quicker than fast"-deploying ESPN finally admits a person can run good:
…versatile athlete. … catches the ball without effort. …speed is better than anyone else on the field. … Displays a feel for finding an opening and then accelerating through it. He is slow to the hole and then displays a burst to slide through it. … Exhibits good feet and an ability to avoid direct hits. Can slide laterally and avoid a shot.
When Ace checked out the Avon-Ben Davis game featuring Evans and Brandon Peters last fall, Evans was largely bottled up until a 52-yard screen touchdown that is the last play on the FBO video above, but he did demonstrate that speed:
We got an early glimpse at how fast Evans is when his teammate returned a kickoff to the house (0:30 mark) and Evans, who lined up as the other return man, went from nearly a dead stop ten yards behind the play to a dead sprint, getting out in front to wall off the final defender who could've made a tackle.
…excellent downfield speed and is a long strider. …excellent explosive quickness coming out of his breaks. …. mismatch on third down coming out of the backfield matched up against a linebacker. … Nice agility and plus balance. Feet keep moving in tight spaces.
Evans can go. Full stop, no caveat, Chris Evans is going to be one of the fastest players in the Big Ten as soon as this fall.
Evans isn't just fast in a straight line, with many evaluations focusing on his fluidity and change of direction.
Chris Evans is elusive!! Best rep in this drill so far: pic.twitter.com/2XJao1xvGc
— Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) May 31, 2015
ESPN praises him as a "smooth, balanced, athletic player." He showed at Michigan's Indianapolis satellite camp last year and wowed onlookers. Wiltfong:
Evans has speed … but it’s how fluid he is that impresses. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound Evans is so smooth changing direction. … a cut above the rest [in] running back agility drills and in 1-on-1s it was easy for him to abuse the linebackers on the field. He’s sure-handed.
Scout compared him to five-star OSU commit Demario McCall (who you will not like very much over the next few years) because they were similar dudes:
…elusive and fluid …juked some guys out of their socks and as usual, caught the football well.
Excellent hands and pass-catching ability. Very comfortable running routes. A smooth kid who glides through traffic. Has good, maybe not elite speed and can make cuts and moves while going full speed. He's elusive and does a great job of finding running lanes.
Wiltfong again, at another camp:
… from the moment drills started he was on another level, showcasing the speed, balance and agility that will eventually make him a sought-after prospect. … Evans could not be checked during the competition portion, as there wasn’t a running back or corner that could match up athletically.
Evans showed his quickness, fluidity and pass catching skills at the Core 6 Showcase yesterday.
Those pass catching skills pop up a lot. Evans isn't a running back who has to move to receiver in college because he's small. He's already advanced in that department.
… can catch the ball, and not just the easy ones, and has good quickness and route running skills as well.
…runs routes and catches the football with his hands like a wide receiver.
…seemed to make a catch on every other play. A one-handed grab while staying in bounds on a downfield pass was perhaps the play of the day.
Evans is a guy with nearly 400 rushes who also keeps pace with many D-I high school wide receivers downfield. He'd be brutal to defend in a spread offense. He came to Michigan.
I think Evans ends up playing safety in Ann Arbor. This goes against the grain. While many people mention his potential at DB nobody outright projects him there; ESPN evaluates as a running back and the other sites keep bringing up his hands and routes. This isn't limited to analysts. In early January, Steve Lorenz relayed some information from the staff:
Michigan coaches were happy to hear that Chris Evans will not take any more official visits as they view him as a potential playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. … From what we're told, he could see carries directly out of the backfield or get touches at the slot wide receiver position.
There have been a few major changes since then. NJ WR Brad Hawkins—a player many were projecting to safety—looks unlikely to make it to campus. NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, another potential safety, nearly transferred. And Don Brown replaced DJ Durkin at defensive coordinator.
The current situation:
- Michigan has an ungodly pile of tight ends to suck up skill position snaps.
- They bring back sophomore Grant Perry and brought in 1-3 other players who can play in the slot.
- The safety depth chart yawns like a crevasse.
- David Long and Lavert Hill exist.
- Michigan's new defensive coordinator built the nation's best defense with two converted corners with great range at safety.
Evans has the best chance to be an impact guy at safety. Even if he's the best slot, he's probably the best slot by an inch. He might be the best safety option by a mile. Brown runs a lot of cover two and blitzes a ton; he needs guys who can eat up ground and prevent his aggressive ways from resulting in quick touchdowns. Evans promises to be that kind of guy… eventually.
There are some external indicators that Evans is best suited for the defensive backfield. His camp performances indicated potential:
…began his day playing cornerback where he was able to keep in check the best receivers at the camp with his lateral quickness and ability to turn and run.
Ohio State's late offer was sincere and a tad insulting, as late offers always are; it was as a defensive back. When Evans committed he said Michigan wanted him in the slot or at DB and that he had a preference:
"I want to play defensive back. I think that's the best spot for my future."
Soon after that preference was replaced with the usual "I'll play anywhere" quote, but I think that's illuminating all the same. A few months later he mentioned that Michigan was talking to him about corner and slot, but mostly they just wanted him because he was very fast.
Evans can probably get to a weight where he won't be a liability as a tackler. He's already put on around about 20 pounds…
As a sophomore, Evans weighed just 167 pounds. … “My sophomore year (Lawrence Central’s) Darrin Kirkland hit me and I felt like I’d go back 10 feet,” he said. “This year when we encountered, I didn’t feel like a toy getting thrown around.”
…to get to 185 or 190 depending on who you listen to; Wiltfong believes he can "easily add 20 pounds and be just as dynamic." When Tim Sullivan caught him in person he was impressed with his lower half:
…isn't very big but he's extremely well put together and chiseled. His lower body is very thick and allows him to be quick, fast, sudden, and also quite powerful.
And he seems to have the mental wherewithal that is a main asset for the last line of defense:
"I think I'm a good student of the game so I know where things are supposed to hit and what happens when this happens. I'm a student of the game and I work hard at it and my vision helps me on the field."
See also the upcoming "nah" quote about that OSU offer. He can hack safety, probably, and Michigan needs those. But if you told me he was anything else I'd believe you, too.
Etc: I submit to you the greatest quote in the history of rejecting late recruiting offers:
“It's like there's two girls and one girl is Beyonce, which is Ohio State. I’m like, dang, I want Beyonce because she looks good and has everything, so I want her. However, she is like 'nah' and I’m going to hold back. I don’t know if I want to go out with you right now. I’m like alright cool, then I will just hold back and do whatever I can and just chill. Then Halle Berry comes in and is like, hey Chris, what’s up and I like you. I’m like okay cool, so I am going to go with Halle Berry and have been going out with her since June. However, Beyonce pops back up and is like, hey babe, what’s up and remember me? We can go out if you want to? I’m like I got Halle Berry and I’m happy with her. That is what I want. I tried to get with you, but you didn’t want it, so I chose otherwise. Now that you want to jump back in, I got nothing for you.”
"If you're going to write anything on me," says Evans, a star running back at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, "you've got to mention all of my offensive linemen, too, by name."
A quick, talented and rather humble young man, Evans knows his potentially bright football future might not be as shiny without the help of his five super-sized Ben Davis pals.
Jalil Brewer, Dylan Runyon, Pompey Coleman, Ahmad Malone and Quinton Tyler.
"That's the best O-line in the state," Evans says with pride.
Was considered a "heavy Michigan State lean" on March 23rd, visited Ann Arbor a week later, and then it was all over but the shouting.
Why Dennis Norfleet or Dymonte Thomas? Norfleet was a very good high school running back with the ability to pop it between the tackles and juke in tight spaces. Michigan moved him to slot receiver, where he was little more than a predictable jet sweep threat, and eventually to cornerback. Evans is considerably bigger than the 5'8" Norfleet but they're ranked around the same place and Michigan hasn't had another spread H-back type guy recently. I have similar fears that if Evans ends up being that slot/RB hybrid guy he'll be similarly lost. I have a hard time envisioning that as a major role under Harbaugh.
Thomas is a reasonable comparison if Evans ends up on defense. Thomas is taller, at 6'2", but even now he's listed on the roster at 195, a number Evans can hit as early as next year. Both dudes are super fast. Thomas was a high school running back first and foremost; he also played OLB. Evans shades more towards the corner side of the hybrid safety continuum, but as a terrific athlete with a lot of positional uncertainty and probable eventual destination as a cover-oriented safety Thomas is a kindred spirit, down to the length of time it'll take before he's ready to go.
Guru Reliability: Low. Big split, Indiana doesn't get a lot of focus, positional uncertainty, no All Star game.
Variance: High. For the same reasons listed above, more or less. Also my bet that he's a safety brings questions about tackling to the forefront.
Ceiling: High-minus. Evans's speed and intelligence could make him into a very good safety, but he's not 6'2" and also a bolt.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Very fast gentleman with a lot of question marks.
Projection: Redshirt. I expect his position will remain a question mark through most of fall camp and possibly through much of his freshman year; the guess here is that he ends up a DB by spring practice, either safety or corner. If so he'll be thrown into a melee as Michigan loses its top five defensive backs after the season.
He's not likely to win that melee at corner. He's not likely to beat out Tyree Kinnel at safety. That fourth spot, though, is wide open if Khaleke Hudson is indeed the Peppers heir apparent. If it's Evans that's almost certainly going to be painful in the short term. In year three and beyond I'd be pretty comfortable with Evans out there as a super fast safety who can turn and run when the opposition attempts to go over his head.