He wasn’t expected to be a starter this season with Dominique Alexander and Frank Shannon scripted into the middle of the Sooners’ defense. The homegrown Norman linebacker was suddenly forced there, and when he was first called upon to start, he made it through just the first few plays of the game.
Since being ejected early in the Sooners’ season-opening victory, Evans has made incredible progress. He’s played his way into being interchangeable with Alexander, a two-year starter, having made a career-high nine tackles last week.
“(It’s) what we expected because of what we’ve seen in practice,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s a big athlete. He runs really well and tackles really well. He’s playing well. He knows where he needs to be in our different defenses. He’s playing really well.”
As Oklahoma prepares for its Big 12 Conference opener Saturday against West Virginia, it’s the type of plays that Evans has been making that will have an even greater importance.
Against Tennessee, Evans twice made a touchdown-saving play in the open field. He ran down Volunteers’ running back Jalen Hurd on a clear path to the end zone, and with just him between Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley and the goal line, Evans made a touchdown-saving tackle at the four-yard line.
One play later, Evans tipped a pass and threw the clearing block on Julian Wilson’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, to which Wilson gives Evans all the credit.
That’s a 21-point swing that Evans created almost on his own.
“He’s done an excellent job,” Oklahoma linebacker Geneo Grissom said. “There never was a doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t be a great linebacker for us this year. He put in a lot of hard work this summer. He’s just one of those guys who is accountable, and he’s going to be there to make the play.”
At 6-foot- and 221 pounds, Evans is big just in his height alone, which the defensive backs have said makes their job easier because of the plays he can make in space. With great speed that he has shown on the field, Evans has become an elite playmaker for the Sooners in just his third start.
“He reads and reacts to things much quicker than he did at any time a year ago,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “A lot of that comes back to the simplicity of our defense, letting our players play fast and be able to execute the plays that we call. Jordan has been a benefactor of all that.
“You can see his speed on the field and his athleticism. He's played really well.”