In 2014, Rashaan Evans was the Auburn high school football star with parents who owned a restaurant in downtown Auburn who surprised everyone in his Auburn High School gym by not announcing for Auburn.
In 2018, he’s a permanent team captain for the 2017-18 national champions, star of the latest episode of “Bama Cuts” who will most likely hear his name called Thursday night in Arlington.
For this talented linebacker, the journey hasn’t always been linear, but it certainly paid off in the end.
Evans was among the first of the new age linebacker at Alabama.
In 2012 and 2013, Johnny Manziel and company lit up Saban’s old-school 3-4 defense with a whole bunch of offensive chaos, so Saban needed a way to chase down the unchaseable.
Enter Rashaan Evans.
Barely 220 lbs coming out of high school, Evans was a far cry from the Tide LBs of yore. Think of Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower and Rolando McClain. Big-bodied dudes with an ability to power up the middle or get to the outside against Power-I offenses, but a little overmatched against speed.
Granted, those are three elite players I just mentioned who most likely would’ve been fine against the HUNH, but Saban needed what is called “quick twitch” athletes. These are the ones who are built to be linebackers, but have a little less weight and a lot more speed.
Evans didn’t run a 40, but I can assure you that the man is fast. He is very fast.
His closing speed in open space looks similar to a safety’s.
Out of high school, he was recruited as an elite outside linebacker/edge rusher type. The type of player that Tim Williams became at Alabama. Let him put a hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback.
In the 2016 National Championship game against Clemson it worked to the tune of two sacks.
The following season, though, Saban envisioned something a little different for the promising pass rusher: middle linebacker.
When Shaun Dion Hamilton went down with a knee injury in the 2016 SEC Championship game, Rashaan Evans came in and started the rest of the way.
2017 came around and it was his and Hamilton’s show at ILB. Evans did not disappoint.
Finishing up with 74 tackles on the season (and that’s after missing two games), Evans put on a show this past season.
Unlike most middle linebackers under Saban, Evans was given a little leeway as to where he could line up on the field. As you’ll see in the below video, Evans played anywhere from a surveyor of sorts on passing downs to a balls-out pass rusher. He succeeded at both.
As you can see, Evans found a way to be effective in several areas. His pass coverage skills aren’t as good as CJ Mosley’s, but he’s not going to be asked to do this at the next level. When he get full head of steam, he can overpower anyone across from him.
If you want an inside look at what makes Evans such an attractive prospect, check out the 4:50 mark where he levels poor Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano before the end of the first half.
With his mixture of speed and power, it’s no wonder that there isn’t anyone mocking him into the top 15. He is a rare breed of athlete.
It’ll be interesting to see where Evans goes in this draft, but nearly every site I’ve seen has him off the board by Thursday evening.
Several sites have him mocked to New England which would be something special if he got to play with the old-school ‘Bama MLB, Hightower.
Evans wasn’t the true signal caller for the Tide defense this past year, but he most certainly understands the intricacies of it, so you can rest assured with knowledge that Bill Belichick will find that appealing.
New England at #23 it is, then!