Chicago Harlan Lineman Seeks UI Offer

With the coming graduation of Graham Pocic and Hugh Thornton, the interior of the Fighting Illini offensive line will have to reload. With a strong emphasis on in-state recruiting, Illinois coaches have targeted an offensive guard out of Chicago in the 2013 class.

Ki-jana Evans of Harlan High School in Chicago, Illinois, has been emerging lately as an FBS Division 1 prospect. Despite a rough year for his team, he put together a solid season on the offensive line and saw how his hard work in the offseason paid off.

"We were 2-7. I'd say individually, I know I did pretty well and did what I could to help my team. My pass blocking and I'd say my ability to stay on my block got a lot better."

Evans projects as an interior lineman on the college level, but in high school he's played every position on the offensive line. He has the athleticism to play his primary position of left tackle, but he has the size and quickness to play inside as well.

"Mostly I play left tackle, but I've played everywhere along the line. I'm pretty fast for my size. I can stay low, and I stay on my block as long as I can. I have a bit of a nasty streak too. I can move when I have to pull on a play."

Still, Evans has spent a lot of time working on increasing his strength. High school is one thing, but Evans is wise and knows that before college, he'll need to be considerably stronger.

"I've constantly been working on my strength. In the summertime during two-a-days, I didn't take advantage of the weight room, but now I'm getting there in plenty of time and working hard before practice. I do a lot of running and a lot of drills."

Evans didn't start his career at Harlan, but he assumed a leadership role with his teams as early as his freshman year. Once at Harlan, he did whatever he could to help his team.

"I'm a captain for the offensive line at Harlan. Actually, my freshman year I didn't go to Harlan. I was at Carver, but I was captain there as a freshman.

Once I got to Harlan, I had to wait a while before I started playing full-time because I didn't get there soon enough to be at all of the practices. But that motivated me to make myself better and get where I needed to be."

Evans is beginning to hear from a number of colleges. Some recruits sit back and let recruiting come to them, but Evans is active in his recruiting process and enjoys every bit of it. Aside from football, Evans has lofty goals for his long-term career.

"What I'm looking for mostly is my major. I'm majoring in pre-law. Academics are a big deal to me. I put a lot of focus on my academics. I'm trying to build my career around what's going to be around forever. Law will always be out there."

Evans just picked up his first offer from Eastern Michigan, but he's hearing from a number of other schools as well.

"The top schools interested in me are Illinois, West Virginia, Arkansas, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Iowa State, and Minnesota."

Evans has visited Illinois a couple of times already since Tim Beckman and his staff were hired to Illinois. Most notably, Evans noted Illinois's immediate acceptance and welcoming nature.

"It was a nice environment. The coaches treat their players like their sons. I fell in love with the weight room when I saw it. And the way the coaches coach their players, I just love it."

Specifically, offensive line coach Luke Butkus and ornerbacks Coach Steve Clinkscale have been staying in touch with Evans. He had positive things to say about both young coaches.

"The main coach recruiting me is Coach Butkus, but Coach Clinkscale talks to me a lot too. The first impression I got of Coach Butkus is that he wants a lot of intensity. I'm looking for that type of thing in a coach to make me play to my full potential. He came to the school and looked at my tape."

Evans has been busy this spring and has plans to see some other schools as well. Most of his trips have been local, but once summer comes, Evans will start to venture outside the Midwest.

"I went to Western Michigan in late January. I'll be heading to Eastern Michigan too. April 7th, I'm going to the Nike Sparq combine, and then I'm going to Northern Illinois on April 14th. Sometime in July, I'm going to Arkansas for a one-day camp."

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