It's the middle of December, and Stanford is still looking for its first running back verbal commitment for this 2003 recruiting class. The Cardinal need to sign a minimum of one tailback in this class, if not two, after pulling in no backs in the last class. And news is about to come on one of the top tailbacks in the country, with Stanford one of his finalists.
Jason Evans has been a very discussed recruit on The Bootleg ever since the spring, when his Stanford lead quickly faded and turned into a Penn State verbal commitment after a favorable meeting with head coach Joe Paterno. That commitment did not slow down any of the nation's top coaches, as offers and heavy pursuit followed from all corners of the country. Evans has continued recruiting involvement, though, with just three schools: Penn State, Oklahoma and Stanford.
After taking fall visits to Penn State and Oklahoma, Evans came out to The Farm last weekend (12/6) for his greatly anticipated official visit. He had been to the Stanford campus twice before unofficially - once in the spring and once in early November for the USC game. That meant that there would be few surprises for the senior from Harrison High School (Kennessaw, GA). Additionally, Evans came into the weekend on a down note.
His Harrison team, after a blockbuster undefeated run through the regular season, lost in the quarterfinals of the Georgia state 5A playoffs. The Hoyas were decimated by injuries, including the loss of Evans with a bad ankle sprain and the loss of Paul Oliver, arguably one of the top few cornerbacks in the entire country. Without the stellar defensive duo (Evans has been a standout CB opposite Oliver this year), East Coweta scored at will and took down the once-dominant Hoyas. All Evans could do was limp around on the sidelines and watch the carnage.
"It hurt really badly to not be able to play in my final senior game," he says. "But the Stanford visit gave me something to take my mind off it."
And so Evans caught an early flight Saturday morning with his mother to take his final official visit. He had seen the campus and facilities before, but in neither of his previous visits had he really spent quality time with the Stanford players. That became a focal point of this visit.
"I got to talk with a lot of guys and just hang out," Evans recounts. "The guys were all great - just like me." And were they the same or different like those he met at Penn State and Oklahoma? He replies, "Just like the other guys, but smarter."
The Harrison senior says one of the best times he enjoyed during the visit was the golfcart tour he took of the Stanford campus with a hostess.
The following week, the Evans family entertained in-home visits from coaches of the three schools. Penn State came Tuesday; Oklahoma came Wednesday and Stanford came Friday. An assistant coach came for the first two visits, but Stanford head man Buddy Teevens was the only head coach to make the trip, accompanied by running backs coach Wayne Moses. "It shows me how important I am to them," says Evans of the Stanford contingent.
Very familiar with all three schools, there was not a new pitch to be heard by Jason or his parents. He says that he just wanted to get a "recap" of what each school offers him. The talk with Teevens centered on the two questions Evans says are the biggest he is assessing for the three schools in this decision: winning and playing time. The former criterion might be a real challenge for Stanford versus the Sooners and Nittany Lions, and this is the great challenge for the Stanford coaches as they recruit Evans. After the official visit and in-home visit, the senior running back says Teevens has done a heck of a job in answering questions: "I do think Coach Teevens can turn it around at Stanford. I believe that."
As for playing time, he has watched Stanford's backs in person and feels confident about the role he could play. "I think I could play next year," he says of the Stanford outlook.
With all the information in hand, Evans says he is close to a decision and in fact has the team in mind that he is likely to select for this college future. My best prying produced no results, but the decision should be made to coaches and the public this week.
Jason Evans ran for more than 1100 yards this year, and gained more than 1600 yards in total offense including receiving. He picked up seven yards per carry and recorded 15 touchdowns. He is currently rated the #12 running back in the country by TheInsiders and has been named to the Georgia Top 50 and Super Southern 100 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He has also just recently been named one of the five finalists for the Watkins Award, given annually to the top African American student-athlete in the country. Stanford is home to the last two winners of the Watkins Award, and six of the 17 finalists from the last four years.