Alabama football: Keeping things light, Rashaan Evans ready to lead Tide’s defense
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When mentioning the most versatile players for Alabama football, linebacker Rashaan Evans has to be near the top of the list.
Evans, a former 5-star prospect, has shown the ability to play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, rush the passer and cover in space. His sideline-to-sideline speed makes him a tackling machine.
Evans likely will line up inside on first and second downs, and slide outside when necessary on third downs.
“I’ve been working both and I love both to be honest. It gives me the ability to be creative,” Evans said. “With pass rushing, I love to do different moves just to try and get to the quarterback. Even when I’m in the inside, I can just move and do other things, tackle guys, cover, and that just gives me the ability to show my athleticism.”
Making his first career start against Washington in the College Football Playoff, Evans matched his career-high with 7 tackles and had 1 sack. He topped that total in the national championship game with 11 stops (6 solo) while registering a half sack vs. Clemson.
Heading into his senior year, Evans has emerged as one of the leaders on Alabama’s defense. He’s even considered one of the alpha dogs along with Da’Ron Payne and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“Rashaan has certainly done a really good job for us,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He kind of played defensive end, outside linebacker. That’s kind of what we recruited him as. He’s a really good pass rusher. We converted him to inside linebacker and he’s made fantastic progress at that. Really shown a lot of leadership on the field.
“Has really good knowledge and experience now relative to what he’s supposed to do, how he’s supposed to do it making calls. I think there’s a lot of guys that look to his leadership to be important in the development of our defense. He’s certainly done a good job of that to this point.”
There were some early struggles with injuries and learning his assignments after making the switch from edge rusher to inside linebacker. Now, Evans is comfortable running the show in the middle.
Evans has embraced the leadership role. Evans is helping Alabama’s young players just as Reuben Foster — one of Alabama’s seven starters selected in the first four rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft — Reggie Ragland and others helped him early in his career.
“Me being an older guy, I feel like my position is to make everyone else better around me,” Evans said. “Especially with the freshmen. Helping them learn the standard that we have around here, the way we practice, how we carry ourselves and the little things like that. I feel like that’s kind of my role now.”
Along with his strong play and leadership, Evans also has become one of the guys who keeps things light. Playing football at Alabama often can be demanding with the rigorous schedule Saban and his staff set.
Evans has emerged as someone with a “Reuben Foster-like personality,” a guy teammates naturally follow and also can bring the laughs to lighten the mood.
“I don’t know if you guys saw us get into it last year during Media [Day] during the playoffs, but Rashaan’s a lot like Reuben,” running back Damien Harris said. “He’s an incredibly hard worker. He focuses on the small details. He’s just a really, really positive guy on our team and he’s a true leader. But he’s somebody that kind of mixes it up and has fun every now and then.”