KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans has just one game of experience at the D-1 level, but Tennessee star linebacker Darrin Kirkland has seen enough to be impressed.
“He’s a baller,” Kirkland said.
“He really does a great job getting (the ball) to his receivers downfield. He also has some savviness in the run game, their quarterback run game, power-type stuff. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen on film so far.”
The nation’s No. 1 junior college quarterback completed 20 of 32 passes for 221 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 36-13 win over Liberty last weekend. The duel-threat talent added 46 yards on the ground, too, leading the Hokies in rushing.
“He’s an athlete,” Volunteers safety Micah Abernathy said.
“The comparison that we have is Cam Newton, and he likes to compare himself to him.”
Evans, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound battering ram behind center, was the gem of Justin Fuente’s first recruiting class at Va. Tech. The Dallas native torched opponents at Trinity Valley Community College in 2015, leading the conference with 395.5 passing yards a game and 38 touchdowns.
After Fuente developed Paxton Lynch at Memphis, Evans is his latest toy for his explosive, spread offense.
Evans is a mobile, duel-threat freelancer and Tennessee struggled against similar threats (Oklahoma, South Carolina) last season. Furthermore, Evans is aided by a dynamic receiving corps, headlined by junior Isaiah Ford.
After recording 75 catches for 1,164 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015, Ford, a shifty 6-foot-2 playmaker, is on pace to break multiple Hokies receiving records. Evans and Ford formed an immediate connection against Liberty, as the wideout was targeted 19 times and hauled in 11 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s a very, very talented player for them,” UT coach Butch Jones said.
“We have to make sure we know where he’s at on the field at all times. … He’s very, very quick. Very fast. He’ll be one of the better receivers we play all year.”
The “Battle at Bristol” will definitely be a step-up in competition for Evans, who got off to a sluggish start against Liberty before really getting going, but Tennessee remains wary of the quarterback’s ability to challenge its secondary downfield. He hooked up with Ford on a number of back-shoulder throws last Saturday — plays difficult to defend for even an All-American cornerback like Cam Sutton.
“He can make all the throws. He was in control,” Jones said.
“He can push the ball down the field. It’s no secret, that’s what they’re going to do and let their talented wideouts go up and make a play in the air.”