In this current class, the Irish already have a commitment from the Golden State's top running back, and one of the nation's best, in Cierre Wood. The Irish have also landed an outstanding cornerback prospect in Marlon Pollard.
A year after landing arguably the nation's top wide receiver class, the Irish look to add even more fire power in current California standout Shaquelle Evans.
Listed between 6-foot and 6-2, Evans isn't the tallest or thickest wide receiver. But he does have good enough height and a solid, albeit thin frame.
His size suits his game quite well. The Inglewood High School standout shows very good speed and very quick feet. While he might not have elite speed, his speed is quite good. He gets to top speed within a couple of steps, and he gets on top of cornerbacks quite fast.
Evans is also an extremely smooth athlete who shows an advanced understanding of how to run. He shows top level body control and runs like a trained sprinter. By that I mean he runs exceptionally smooth and doesn't strain his body in order to run fast. This allows him to move quickly in and out of his cuts as well as break away from defenders with ease on deeper routes. With his controlled stride, speed, and foot quickness, Evans projects as a potentially dominating route runner in college, and will be extremely hard to cover one-on-one.
For a young player, Evans plays the game with very good technique. He will need some work but he brings a solid foundation to the table. Let me begin with some critiques of his technique, and then I will get into the attributes that lead me to believe Evans will be a tremendous route runner if he is willing to work at it.
His stance is a bit narrow and tight to each other. This causes him to false step a bit at the snap, but for a high school junior (that's the film I have) he is actually solid. He simply needs a couple minor adjustments and he'll be in good shape at the line of scrimmage. When reaching the top of his routes Evans has a tendency to lean back. This causes him to lift and is an easy give-away to defenders. What he needs to do is drive through or accelerate through the top of his route. What this does is force him to keep his forward lean, which he has while running, and makes it easy to slam his cuts without giving away his intentions to defenders. Evans also has a tendency to round off his out cuts a bit too much. On this type of cut there is naturally going to be some bend, but what Evans needs to do is limit it and work himself back downhill after his break.
Now I'm going to move on to the good things.
The athletic traits I discussed previously are the first assets Evans has as a route runner. He gets to full speed quickly, he has outstanding footwork which allows him to make fast cuts, and he's very smooth when he's running fast. His athletic ability gives him the potential to excel at any route he'll be asked to run in college. He is quick enough to be sharp and precise on any short routes. He has enough quickness and is smooth enough to run away from defenders in his intermediate and out routes. He also has enough speed to run by defenders and get over the top of coverages.
Evans uses his speed off the line to quickly get defenders on their heels and into their turns. Despite the fact he lifts up in his routes, his quickness in and out of cuts prevents high school defenders from running with him. What also sets Evans apart as a route runner is his ability in the slot and his instincts working against zone coverages. Evans is able to work the deep middle of the field and find open spots between the safety and linebacker level. He also shows the ability to cross the field and find soft spots in zones.
As he transitions into college, Evans will need to learn to use his hands and quickness to beat jams and defenders attempting to re-route him. He is able to get away with his current technique but in college bigger and stronger defenders will give him problems until he develops the ability to beat them.
I really like the way Evans catches the football. He has strong hands and catches the ball away from his body. As with his route running, his body control when catching the football is also excellent. Whether it's a jump ball in the end zone, a pass thrown behind his back or an under-thrown deep ball, Evans shows the ability to easily adjust to poorly thrown footballs. Evans also plays the game with quite a bit of confidence and swagger which I really like in a wide receiver.
As a wide receiver, Evans isn't a game-breaker with the ball in his hands. Where he will dominate is as a route runner and using his speed and quickness to get open and find creases. He has the ability to make plays with the ball but it's not his greatest strength. This is interesting because as a kick returner he does show explosiveness with the ball. What's interesting is that his big-play ability as a returner is what makes him such a dangerous route runner. He isn't a force as a returner because he jukes people all over the field and makes tremendous cuts. He is a force because he is able to get up-field so quickly, is so smooth weaving around traffic, and his ability to find holes and openings. Evans isn't a shaker but uses his athletic ability to get to the end zone as quickly as possible.
I'm a fan of Shaquelle Evans game as a wide receiver. He shows me all the intangibles needed to be an outstanding college football player. Based on his interviews he also shows some maturity off the field, which is why I believe Notre Dame is still in the mix for him. It is going to be very hard for Notre Dame to lure this standout away from California, but with the Irish track record in recent seasons I won't bet against them.
Evans is suited very well for the Notre Dame offense. The Irish offense is one built around schemes more so than individual playmakers. The kind of players who excel in this offense are good athletes who understand defenses, have the athletic ability to beat defenders one on one, and can make catches in tough spots. That is what Shaquelle Evans game is all about. Whoever lands Evans has a player with the talent and potential to put up excellent numbers as a college wideout.