Say this about Ben Davis running back Chris Evans – he’ll never skimp on dishing out credit to the offensive line.
In the course of a 20-minute conversation, Evans brings up the offensive line at least five times. Unprompted. Finally, I asked him why.
“They don’t get enough credit,” he said. “If I was an offensive lineman, I’d be mad. Nobody knows who those guys are. Every chance I get, I’m going to let somebody know about them.”
Fair enough. Evans, who is running track this spring at Ben Davis, knows where the bread is buttered. On the strength of an impressive finish to his junior season, the 5-11, 191-pound Evans has become one of the hottest football recruits in the state.
Ohio State and Notre Dame sent assistant coaches to Ben Davis last week. Penn State and Michigan were in as well this spring. So were Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Tennessee, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, Cincinnati, Kentucky and several Mid-American Conference schools. Many of those programs like Evans as a running back prospect, while others like his skill set and would like to just figure out his position once he arrives.
“Some schools want me on defense but haven’t really seen me on defense,” Evans said. “I’m open to the idea. In the Big Ten, running backs take a lot of shots. They might not last as long as a defensive back.”
Evans, ranked No. 293 nationally in the 2016 class in the 247sports composite rankings, has offers from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Ball State, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio), Toledo and Western Michigan. While he is open to playing defense in college, his ability on the offensive side is enticing.
Evans rushed for 1,249 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior (averaging 6.8 yards per carry) and caught 51 passes for 676 yards and another 10 TDs. He was at his best in some of the biggest Ben Davis’ games, going over 132 yards rushing in all of the Giants’ last four games. Evans rushed for 293 yards and three TDs in a semistate win over Center Grove.
“I think I can get the job done as a smaller running back,” he said. “I feel like my running back play is based off the offense we run. If we ran powerhouse football, I wouldn’t be able to play the way I am now with the success I’ve had. Our offensive line is so good, the best in the state. With the defense spread out, there are less people and it doesn’t really take my size into account. I’m looking for a spread offense, but feel like I can adapt at the next level.”
As a sophomore, Evans weighed just 167 pounds. If there were questions about his size, Evans seems to have answered them.
“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.”
While Michigan State may be the most high-profile of his offers so far, Evans said he’s keeping an open mind. He visited Notre Dame at the end of March and said he’d like to visit Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the near future. He said the interest from Notre Dame and Ohio State came as something of a surprise.
“I didn’t realize Notre Dame and Ohio State would be interested,” he said. “(Both coaches) were showing me their rings. I like those schools. Those are classic schools.”
Evans said he likes the idea of playing in the Big Ten and has made several visits to Indiana, where former Ben Davis safety Antonio Allen will be a junior this fall. Allen was a senior at Ben Davis when Evans was a freshman. Evans remembers it well.
“I had my glasses on inside my helmet and when Antonio Allen hit me, my glasses shot right out,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Evans said he’d like to have a college decision made prior to the high school season, if possible. He said his role as a senior could change depending on how the coaches want to use him.
“I’ll play center if they want me to play center,” he said.
That seems unlikely, especially considering how highly Evans thinks of the offensive line.
“I grew a bond with those guys last year,” Evans said. “We’ll have a couple of returning starters and a few more guys ready to fill in. I think this year’s offensive line will be even better than last year. I think it’ll be the best offensive line in Ben Davis history.”