Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link: http://read.uberflip.com/i/835590

Contents of this Issue


Page 63 of 179

62 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW A few weeks later, Evans proved he could do it when it mattered, too. He introduced himself to college football's national scene Sept. 3, when in his collegiate debut versus Hawai'i he rushed eight times for 112 yards and two touchdowns to be named U-M's Offensive Player of the Game. He became only the third Wolverine running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark in his first collegiate game, joining Walter Cross (104 yards, Sept. 12, 1998) and Chris Perry (103 yards, Sept. 2, 2000), and his shiftiness made it clear this was no fluke. "I don't think it was that hard for me because I feel like I came in during a season if I didn't play, nobody's going to know me because I wasn't a huge name coming in," Evans said. "The huge-name guys, you know there's pressure. I never felt that, but you know it [is there]. "If I do play, everybody's going to know, so I might as well just go in and be able to play, be able to spark some things for the team. When you're talking about being a five-star recruit, an All-American, you come in and are pressured by the media to do well, play as a true freshman. I was a three- star, wasn't an All-American, but I pressured myself to be able to go out there and make plays." The best part about watching him, Speight noted, was that Evans didn't let his performance go to his head. He went about his business as though he'd been there before, quietly gaining more confidence as a player. By the end of the season, he'd become one of the go-to guys in a loaded backfield. His fourth-quarter touchdown run in the Orange Bowl against Florida State in which he shook a safety and beat defenders to the corner of the end zone was one of the plays of the bowl season. He finished the year as U-M's No. 3 freshman rusher all time with 614 yards — and all that did was whet his appetite for more. "Basically last year, I was just going out there and I had one job," Evans said this spring. "[Former running backs] Coach [Tyrone] Wheatley just made sure I had one job, because once you get two jobs and you've got to check this and check that, it gets crazy. "Most of the plays that I ran were like, 'Okay, run to this gap,' and that's it. During pass protection, you have to look coast to coast and all that, so it's really hard." But he's getting better at it, and even though Wheatley is gone — he's now the running backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars — Evans wants his former mentor to know how far he's come. When he rips off a big run in practice using a technique Wheatley taught him, he's quick to send his old coach the clip to let him know he's getting it and that all of Wheatley's hard work with him has started to pay off. Fighting For No. 1 But Evans is all about pleasing new position coach Jay Harbaugh, too, and becoming the Wolverines' No. 1 running back this year is his primary goal. He added seven pounds to his frame this spring, going from 205 to 212, and looks bigger than that, chiseled and cut. In March, head coach Jim Harbaugh held a competition for his players, measuring them in eight categories: 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 200-yard shuttle, powerball throw, broad jump, 60-yard shuttle, pro shuttle and the L-drill. Evans won seven of the eight running back categories and was the fastest back in the 40 in 4.64 seconds, a time that seemed slow for him. "It was 6 o'clock in the morning," he said of the run, explaining what might be considered a disappointing time. Nobody in the building was worried about his speed, however. They'd seen what he could do last year. When Evans, a high school track star, hit the open field, few caught him from behind, and he was quick this spring to insist he was the same, fast back he'd always been, even with the added weight. He also carries the proverbial chip on his shoulder many three-star backs (like all-time rushing leader Mike Hart) brought with them to Michigan, never seeming to get enough work. Evans had only gotten more than nine carries in a game once during his freshman season, in a blowout win over Rutgers (11 rushes for a career-best 153 yards), and had only 10 combined totes for 26 yards against the rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State. He was ready to show what he could do in the spring game, but head coach Jim Harbaugh had other plans. "Coach Harbaugh came up to me before the game and said, 'You're only going to play one quarter,'" Evans recalled. "I'm like, RISING STAR Sophomore Running Back Chris Evans Is Gaining Confidence BY CHRIS BALAS T wo days. That was how long it took Michigan redshirt junior quarterback Wilton Speight to know there was another special Chris Evans other than the actor who plays the titular star in Marvel's "Captain America," and really, it took only a handful of plays. It took just a few days longer for Evans to realize, "Hey, maybe I do belong here!" Until then, he wasn't sure. The Indianapolis product had fallen in love with Michigan during the recruiting process after his mom and dad did, but he wasn't certain he was good enough to play on the biggest stage, in college football's Big House. Evans posted double-digit carries in just one game during his debut campaign, but he to- taled at least 70 yards from scrimmage in four contests. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

Articles in this issue

view archives of Michigan Football Preview 2017 - 2017 Michigan Football Preview