Rashaan Evans has been a favorite of mine since he arrived on campus. He went to Auburn High School, spurning the hometown Tigers in favor of the Crimson Tide. Evans played a minor role as a back-up pass-rusher his first couple years before the coaches switched him to inside linebacker prior to the 2016 season.
That turned out to be a great decision when Shaun Dion Hamilton went down in the SEC Championship. Evans filled in admirably, racking up more tackles in his two starts than any Tide player not named Reuben Foster.
A painful groin injury against Florida State sidelined him for two weeks, but Evans showed his mettle and returned for the beginning of SEC play.
People actually think I’m a 100%. Muscle was ripped from the bone, when was the last time u did the second digit on my jersey standing up? pic.twitter.com/yKZuxaVzcr— Rashaan Evans (@616evans4) October 9, 2017
He’s been looking better each passing week, and he balled out against the Hogs. Evans recorded 6 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss, including his first two sacks of the season. He added two QB hits and a forced fumble while he was at it, and he was applying pressure that won’t show up on the stat sheet all night.
3rd and 6: Evans (#32) is standing up on the right. The H-back, Austin Cantrell, comes across the line and is responsible for blocking Evans. He does manage to shove Evans and turn around to catch the dump off from QB Cole Kelley, but Cantrell’s so far behind the line that the Alabama defense has time to catch him. Evans, for his part, stays on his feet despite the chip. He dives at Kelley and brings him down. There’s nothing bad about getting a hit on the young quarterback in the first series in his first start.
2nd and 10: Arkansas has great field position after a Henry Ruggs muffed punt. You can see they’re already inside their field goal kicker’s range. Arkansas has a tight formation with Kelley under center and a lone tailback. Evans is inside, over the left guard; and he comes on a blitz. The poor running back has to pick him up; but Evans just smashes into him, knocking him back. Anfernee Jennings (#33) has also beaten the left tackle, forcing Kelley to immediately step up at the end of his drop. This leaves Kelley face-to-face with Evans, who jumps up and grabs him, dragging him to the ground for an 8 yard loss.
3rd and 8: Nothing major from Evans here. He’s standing up on the left side of the line. The tight end goes out on a route, so Evans follows. He matches the tight end step-for-step, staying close on him in coverage, though you can see Evans lost a few steps when the tight end broke on the out route.
1st and 10: Evans blitzes again from the inside and once again gets picked up by the running back. He sees the back going low, though, and tries to launch himself over. Evans hits the ground, rolls, and is right in front of Kelley. Isaiah Buggs (#49), however, beat the left tackle, and forced Kelley to throw it. Evans still joins in the hit while on the ground.
1st and 10: Evans is to the left of Hamilton on the strongside. The tight end moves up to block Evans as the running back gets the handoff. Evans sheds the block like it was nothing and steps up to help Ronnie Harrison (#15) with the tackle.
2nd and 7: It’s the next play, and Evans is lined up on the same side as the running back. Evans blitzes and continues exacting a toll on the back, crashing into him and knocking him flat on his butt here. Evans gets taken down trying to get through him; and the back, David Williams, draws a holding call. The left tackle probably could’ve been flagged for holding on Anfernee Jennings, too.
3rd and 7: It’s third and long, so Evans is rushing from the edge (on the right side of the defense here). The H-back doesn’t even try to chip or slow down Evans; he just slides by and flares out. It’s designed to be a fairly quick pass to the other side of the field, which means Kelley has his back towards a completely unblocked Evans. Evans hits Kelley from behind right as he’s throwing, forcing a wobbly, off-target pass. The receiver was wide open and past the first down marker, so Evans prevents the third down conversion. Arkansas punts.
2nd and 13: Evans ranges over to the strongside edge pre-snap and then rushes. The left guard pulls, Hjalte Froholdt - who’s originally from Svendborg, Denmark - to the right to block the back side, and he meets Evans. Evans gets lower than Froholdt and launches into his chest, lifting him off his feet sending him to his backside. Evans spins and joins in the tackle on the already-stopped running back. He gets his hand on the ball and rips out it, forcing the fumble. It squirts backwards where an Arkansas lineman falls on it.
3rd and 22: Evans is standing up on the right. He busts out a pretty spin move on the left tackle, but he gets stymied going inside. Kelley has to scramble to his left, and Evans heads back that way. Kelley can’t through it because of the coverage, and he takes off back and to his right with Evans hot on his heels. Evans dives and grabs Kelley by the ankles, bringing him down for the sack and just barely missing the safety.