SMU's quest for a bigger running back ended Saturday night.
Former Arkansas running back Denzell Evans will transfer to SMU, he told PonyStampede. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Evans has two years remaining and will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer pending the completion of one summer class, which ends on August 4.
A Houston native, Evans was buried behind 2016 NFL draft picks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams at Arkansas, totaling 13 carries for 84 yards in two seasons. He played mostly on special teams, but scored two touchdowns in Arkansas’s April 23 spring game. SMU offered him a chance to go back to his home state, a chance for more carries, and the opportunity to help build a program.
“Talking with coach (Chad) Morris and coach (Joe) Craddock, I really felt comfortable with what they were doing this year and how they’re rebuilding the program,” Evans said. “Just how motivated they were as far as bringing in all the right guys as far as recruiting and developing the guys they got. I felt for that and wanted to be a part of that.”
Evans picked SMU over Kansas, another upstart program, and proven Group of Five program Marshall. His close friend and former teammate at Houston Bellaire High School is SMU junior wide receiver Ryheem Malone. He didn’t visit SMU before committing, but with Malone’s presence and the genuine, honest vibe he got from the coaches, he felt comfortable making the decision without visiting campus.
“Very genuine. That was the biggest thing,” Evans said. “I felt like I could trust their word.”
Malone was one of the first people he told after making his decision.
“I talked to Ryheem, and he was pumped up,” he said. “Like old times, we’re back together again.”
Evans decided to transfer from Arkansas on May 5. He reached out to SMU, told the coaches he was transferring and asked if they had any interest. SMU was quick to respond that it was interested and was seeking an experienced back to compliment its faster group of young backs.
“They do like that there’s really nobody on the roster with my size and build, so that brings different element to the table that they like,” Evans said. “That was a big part.”
Originally a member of the 2013 recruiting class, Evans flipped to Arkansas from Houston on Signing Day 2013. He also held offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Kansas State, Michigan State, Minnesota and SMU. He was a first-team all-district selection his senior year, rushing for 1,147 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Evans will join a young SMU backfield that includes sophomores Xavier Jones and Braeden West, and freshmen Aphonso Thomas and Jordan Carmouche. His arrival gives SMU more flexibility of redshirting Thomas or Carmouche. The latter is moving to running back after playing linebacker in high school.