One of the top uncommitted prospects remaining in the 2014 recruiting class, 5-star linebacker Rashaan Evans is good enough to play for any program.
The No. 1 outside linebacker in the 247Sports Composite Rankings recently cancelled his final official visit, a Jan. 31 trip to UCLA. That choice is a major blow for the Bruins and opens the door for two in-state programs—Alabama and Auburn—to secure his National Letter of Intent.
Evans, an Auburn native, will announce his decision on national signing day (Feb. 5), and his father recently told James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser that the decision could end up as a matter of on-field fit:
“I think this whole situation is going to boil down to Rashaan trying to figure out what system he best fits,” Alan Evans told Crepea. “I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide are pushing hard for the No. 2 player in the Yellowhammer State, but will it be Rammer Jammer or War Eagle for the skilled defender?
The two programs have different plans for Evans. Auburn sees him filling the hybrid "star" outside linebacker/safety role, while Alabama likes him for its "jack" linebacker/defensive end slot.
Rashaan's father explained to Crepea that his son's current skill set would translate well to a rushing role, and it would only improve once the 6'3", 220-pound high school senior added size to his frame.
After a Jan. 24 visit to Auburn, Evans and his father had nothing but positive sentiments about his fit with the Tigers both on and off the field. Alan Evans relayed the plans of the AU coaching staff, which essentially said that Evans could change the team's "star" role entirely:
They said if they had a guy like Rashaan they could open up another facet of their defensive which they have not done and incorporate the star position blitzing from the edge. That’s what they would want to do with Rashaan, if they had a player like him that could blitz the quarterback.
While the elder Evans was more analytical with his approach to the visit, Rashaan was focused on how he might feel interacting everyday with his future teammates and coaches. Several Auburn recruits, including fellow 5-star linebacker Tre' Williams, actually came back for unofficial visits while Evans was on campus to help him in his decision, a touch that Evans greatly appreciated:
The fact that they care about me, they want me to make the right decision for me, but also it showed me that at the end of the day we’re all brothers. It was a bit of a different feeling because I actually had players come back and spend time with me, they didn’t do that with 'Bama. That made me feel a little bit better, the players actually care about me. It made me feel much different from the previous official I had.
Evans continued, telling Crepea that the Auburn coaching staff took that group of future stars and lined them up where they would all be if they joined the team, helping to drive home that vision.
It is clear that Auburn plans to play Evans as soon as possible if he chooses his hometown team. That process could include a gutsy change, switching last year's "star" linebacker Robenson Therezie to safety or corner. Therezie blossomed in the star role last year, intercepting four passes and tallying 57 tackles.
If he were to choose the Tide, he would be joining the No. 1 class in the nation, making an already phenomenal group even better. 'Bama already has five composite 5-stars on board for its 2014 class, and Evans would make a six pack.
Where will Rashaan Evans end up?
However, the early playing time at Auburn also could be a factor. If Evans does end up filling the "jack" role at 'Bama, he might not do it until later in his career, once he adds size. Traditionally, the "jack" slot has been filled by bigger linebackers, like Courtney Upshaw (6'2", 272 pounds), Xzavier Dickson (6'3", 265 pounds) and Denzel Devall (6'2", 250 pounds).
When choosing between two programs like Auburn and Alabama, there is no wrong decision.
Evans has the talent to succeed no matter what his role his. Now, on NSD, he just has to decide what and where he wants that role to be.
Given the chance at making an immediate impact, as well as his comments about the love he felt from Auburn's current commits, there is a great chance Evans ends up a Tiger. However, Nick Saban and the Tide can't be counted out.