Bloomington, Ind. – Three weeks ago, it looked like Mitchell Evans' college debut might be three years away.
Now, it appears as if it's only two days away.
When the Hoosiers kickoff the 2007 season Saturday night against Indiana State, Evans is one of two freshmen singled out by Coach Bill Lynch as potential first-year, first-game contributors. Evans joins linebacker Tyler Replogle as the most likely newcomers to avoid being redshirted this fall.
If the 6'3", 190-pound Evans does play, it will be at safety as well as on special teams. Injuries to veteran safeties Nick Polk, Austin Thomas and Joe Kleinsmith during fall camp gave Evans an opportunity to get reps in camp, and he did enough good things to have a chance to help right away.
"He's been really coachable and worked really hard and made a lot of improvements every day," said safeties coach Mike Yeager.
Making Evans' ascent from obscure rookie to likely contributor even more impressive is the fact he spent the first 10 days of camp at quarterback. A talented dual threat signal caller from Milton Union (Ohio) H.S., Owens was recruited as a quarterback/safety and the IU staff wanted to look at him at quarterback first.
"We wanted him to start where he wanted to start, and he said he wanted to start at quarterback," Yeager said.
Evans did just that, and represented himself well while working with Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada. He showed off a strong arm, good athleticism, and appeared to be ahead of fellow freshman Teddy Schell on the depth chart.
"I had some good days, and that always comes with some bad also," Evans said. "If I would have practiced more I would have gotten better, but that goes for any position."
As good as Evans might have looked, it wasn't going to be enough to overcome a couple of major roadblocks. He was looking up at a sophomore starter and a redshirt freshman back-up on the depth chart, meaning he was likely a couple of years away from having a legitimate chance to get on the field as a quarterback.
With that in mind, the staff decided he was too good of an athlete to have to wait that long. So they moved him to safety midway through camp, and he's been turning heads on a daily basis ever since.
"I kind of expected (to switch positions)," Evans said. "I knew there was a possibility. I went in to learn the offense, and they need helped at safety so I moved over there and I'm learning the defense. It hasn't been too bad. The first day (Yeager) helped me with the basics, and since then we've gotten more in-depth into things."
Yeager said the first day was used to go over fundamentals such as the stance, the back pedal, reacting to routes and knowing a safety's keys. Evans has picked it up, and he's now at a position where his future appears to be now instead of two or three years down the road.
"This is probably where I have the best chance to get on the field," Evans said. "That was my goal from the beginning of the season. I knew I was more likely to play at safety, but if I get on the field just on special teams, I'll do it."
That opportunity might come as early as the first play of the Indiana State game. Whether the Hoosiers' kickoff or kickoff return unit is on the field first, there's a good chance No. 5 will be in the mix.
Barring a wave of injuries at quarterback Evans is expected to remain at safety for the duration of the '07 campaign. Logic would suggest he'd wind up staying there in future seasons as well, but Yeager said nothing is set in stone.
"We tried him both ways and has looked good at both places," Yeager said. "We'll do what's best for the team this fall, and after that we'll revisit it."
Switch a Cinch For Evans
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