If you've been even casually following Stanford recruiting this spring, or college football recruiting at all, then you surely know about RB Jason Evans of Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. The north-south runner with a mean stiff-arm racked up 1,375 yards and 15 scores on the ground at a ridiculous 10.7 yard-per-carry clip in his junior season at Harrison, but he has also drawn much acclaim for his abilities on defense. Jason is part of a very talented Harrison defensive backfield. While fellow cornerback Paul Oliver was named 1st team all-state in Georgia with 9 interceptions, Jason grabbed 4 picks of his own and is as talented a corner as a running back according to his high school coach. Jason also is a big threat catching the ball out of the backfield.
Thus Jason has earned that 'slash' label as a RB/CB. But make no mistake - Jason Evans is intent on playing offense in college. Some schools have made the mistake of telling Jason they see him playing for them on defense.
"Some schools told me they wanted me to play safety, like Florida, Florida State and Miami."
Was that a turn-off for Jason? You bet. Notice their absence from his favor and consideration today.
Most schools have told Evans they like him on offense, which still presents a who's who in college football on his list. His offers number more than 25 currently, which I wasn't about to ask him to list. But he did give some of the more notable offers that stand out for him: Texas A&M, Stanford, Penn State, North Carolina, Maryland, Boston College, Illinois, Michigan State and Wake Forest. Jason also says that Oklahoma, Colorado and Michigan have told him they are about to offer.
Until now, pretty much everything you've read about Jason has had him play things close to the vest. Heck, for a guy who has 25+ offers and counting, it's not easy to start shutting doors. But Jason is very intent upon narrowing things down in a hurry. You see, Jason wants a singular focus for himself come this fall: his senior season. That means he wants to have his final college decision done by early August. To get from today's list to that final answer, he has to whittle things down soon. In fact, Jason says he would like to get down to a final five by the end of this month.
That begs the question: does Jason have any of those prized five slots filled in his mind yet?
"I have a pretty good idea. Stanford, Texas A&M, Penn State and Boston College."
Interestingly, the schools Jason has visited thus far are Stanford, Texas A&M and Boston College - as well as checking Northwestern during his brother's spring game. He furthermore says that Penn State is the only other upcoming visit that he knows today that he will take. You might think that like many prospective student-athletes, Jason feels most positive toward the places he has experienced. On the contrary.
"I've been pretty excited about those places for a while, and that was why I scheduled them."
For someone who wants to look hard at Stanford for his final decision, there is the important matter of the application for admission. Jason is an excellent student with a 3.7 GPA, including honors classes in math, science and French (four years). He just took the SAT this past Saturday, and feels pretty good about it. Some students are taken a little by surprise by the test, but Jason felt pretty well prepared from the SAT prep course he took. He'll get the results in 2 or 3 weeks.
And the application itself?
"I think I'll be able to start that pretty soon. They already sent me mine."
He also has some work to do to figure out that fifth school. If you're wondering where he might be leaning, you might be surprised to hear that the usual suspects in the Southeast aren't in the thick of it. Indeed, one of the very top players in the state of Georgia isn't giving much consideration at all to Georgia Tech and Georgia.
Part of that can be explained by his past. You see, the Evans family has moved around quite a bit in Jason's lifetime, including stints in Ohio and Michigan before the last six years in Georgia. Now that he's spent the time in peach country, Jason is itching to go somewhere else. His fond memories of his time in the Midwest are part of his attraction to the Big 10. He also likes their style of ball, in contrast to what he sees in SEC football.
"I'd be a better running back in a different league, like the Big 10 or the Big 12. I love the Big 10's running offense."
For someone who grew up for a good while in Ohio, and who has an affection for the Big 10, Ohio State sounds like a natural, right? Well, yes and no.
"I actually grew up hating Ohio State. I couldn't stand the Buckeyes, until the last few years. Now I've come to really like them a lot. They're an important school right up there for me." Though they have yet to offer the Kennesaw standout.
If he loves the running game for which the Big 10 has made its name over the years, I asked if the passing reputation of the Pac-10 would correspondingly turn him off.
"Oh, no. There are always great running backs in the Pac-10. They always turn out some of the best athletes in the country. That's what I like about that league."
Looking beyond the reputations of collegiate conferences, Jason is focused on a few key dimensions upon which he can compare these schools.
"Academics - that would have to go first. If I can go somewhere and get a degree, I want it to show people that I went there for more than football. Also, how many running backs they have. You know, how much depth they have. And the college atmosphere - how fun it will be for me and how I react to the players and students."
The second of those three criteria seems straightforward for Jason to evaluate. The academics is something he is researching currently, including academic rankings and reputations. The atmosphere, though, is one of the key reasons for his visits. He just can't gauge that from afar. And thus far, two of his visits struck him well in this category: Stanford and Texas A&M.
"Stanford is a great place. I talked with JR (Lemon), Leigh (Torrence) and more of the running backs. The Georgia guys all told me it's a lot better out here, and this is the place to be."
Jason had not been to Stanford before, much less to California, and he sheepishly admitted that he had some stereotypes about the place before his visit.
"I tried not to, but I had thoughts that it would be all just sun and beach. And the players wouldn't be as athletic as everybody else. But I watched a spring practice, and they looked excellent."
Jason met with Coach David Kelly and Coach Wayne Moses on his visit to Stanford, but it was Head Coach Buddy Teevens who most struck him.
"Coach Teevens seems to be really forward this year. He's going to do reconstruction on the weight room. He really seems to know what he's going to do. He's got a goal."
Similarly, Jason Evans came away from College Station with a very good feeling about several aspects about the Aggies.
"I also saw one of their practices. The guys all seemed to like Texas A&M. The coaches seemed like great guys - great to be around."
But when he gets all of this recruitment done, Jason is really looking forward to his senior season. He has a very strong focus for what he wants to see come in that season. And it's not about touchdowns or individual accolades.
"I think we really have a chance to win state. I want to get that ring. It's always team first."
If you prod Jason long enough, you can get him to verbalize some individual goals as well.
"I averaged 10.7 yards per carry last year. We have a really good offensive coordinator - averaged something like 45 points per game last year. I hope to get 1500 rushing yards this year and keep that average up."
Jason has the most fun playing on offense, but he understand the importance of his play on defense. Still, he isn't looking for the highlights there.
"We're trying to get the best players on the field, so a few of us have to play ironman. I don't have any real defensive goal - Paul Oliver gets all the interceptions. I just don't want to mess up, you know. I just want to do my job and do it well."
Jason Evans is also a playmaker on special teams, though he saw limited action last season. He ran back kickoffs for just 4 or 5 games before he had to stop (ankle injury). Still, in that short span, Jason returned two kicks for scores.
Harrison is not only a name you'll see make big waves in the state of Georgia this year, but also a name you'll see throughout the recruiting season's battles. Jason's father, Terry, who played in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks, says there are at least seven heavily recruited Division I caliber players on this team, including three who are top 25 in the country at their position. Harrison had the displeasure of getting bounced early this past year from the Georgia playoffs, but they went to the state championship game Jason's sophomore season. That leaves a core group of immensely talented and hungry seniors focused on this season.
Two names you want to follow, who Jason says are being recruited by Stanford and who have strong grades, are linebacker Tim Cesa and offensive lineman Scott Lenahan. Cesa (pronounced like chase-uh) has earned the rep already as one of the top linebackers in Georgia, while Lenahan is a 300-pound talent in a 6'3" frame.