TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The biggest game of linebacker Rashaan Evans’ Alabama football career came on the biggest stage.
Evans produced the best game of his career in the Crimson Tide’s national championship win over Clemson last season. Evans finished with both of Alabama’s sacks and had 3 tackles.
Now a junior, Evans gets another shot on the big stage. He will step in at middle linebacker in the College Football Playoff for Shaun Dion Hamilton, who was injured in the SEC Championship Game.
“That’s the guy that has the best opportunity to do it. He did a nice job in the last game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Evans. “He’s played the most, he’s got the most experience. We have a lot of confidence in him. Hopefully he’ll be able to go out there during these weeks and really get confident in what he’s doing and go out there and do a great job for us.
“Physically, he can run. He’s a good blitzer. He’s a good tackler. So hopefully knowledge and experience is something that we can gain through this extra practice and it’ll be helpful to him so that he can play well.”
No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal on Dec. 31. Evans is expected to start at inside linebacker opposite Butkus Award winner Reuben Foster.
Hamilton will be missed
Evans has 35 total tackles with 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season. He also has 6 quarterback hurries and 1 pass breakup.
“My role now is just fill in,” Evans said. “Shaun Dion was having an exceptional year, so I’ve got some big shoes to fill. Basically, my whole thing right now is just doing whatever I need to do to get ready for the game.”
Hamilton, a junior, was in the midst of a breakout season. Before his season-ending knee injury, Hamilton was third on the team with 64 tackles, including 9 tackles for loss. He had 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. Hamilton was a key run stopper, with 52 of his tackles coming against the rush.
Hamilton’s biggest attribute was his overall knowledge of the Alabama football system. That’s something Evans worked toward since switching from outside linebacker in the fall.
“I’m gonna be honest with you, as far as grasping the playbook, I’m pretty fine,” Evans said. “My whole time that I was being a backup, that’s all I was doing is just learning the plays and stuff. Now I actually got a chance to be on the field and actually play.”