It seems like just the other day that bluechip running back recruit Jason Evans committed to Penn State and turned Stanford recruiting world upside down. In fact, that happened way back in early August, and the Jason Evans Saga has been keeping Cardinalmaniacs™ on pins and needles ever since. The Bootleg knew even then, though, that his commitment to the Nittany Lions did not look to be the end of the game. For a quick refresher, read this August Bootleg report.
Stanford initially lost the battle because of some recruiting snafus, including an admissions mix-up, but Evans says that Penn State put on the full press and was recruiting him the hardest. Since that surprise August turn of events, though, he says that Stanford went all out and recruited him the hardest. That stretched all the way down the waning moments of his recruitment in mid-December, when his final three schools came for in-home visits. Stanford, Oklahoma and Penn State came to the Evans household to give their final pitches at the end of the December contact period, but only the Cardinal sent their head coach for the personal visit.
Stanford's unrelenting recruitment of him made an impact and slowly reversed his initial decision to Penn State, culminating with a final commitment on December 20 to the Cardinal. The commitment is nothing less than huge for Stanford, who had landed just one running back in the prior two classes combined. And Evans has all the credentials of an elite back, with some 30 offers from every corner of the country. Evans says he had offers from "most of the Big 10," as well as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Notre Dame in the Midwest. Maryland and North Carolina made the call in the East, while Oregon, UCLA, Colorado and Stanford hailed from the West. Throw in Texas and Texas A&M, and you can see that the top schools from all geographies and major conferences saw something special in the Harrision HS senior.
The Insiders network of recruiting gurus has ranked Evans as the #12 running back in the country, as does the Rivals network. Superprep has him as an All-American; Max Emfinger has him as the #6 speed running back; and Tom Lemming has him ranked as the #11 athlete in the country. Perhaps the greatest honor of all, he has been recently named one of five finalists for the Watkins Award, given each year to the top African American high school senior student-athlete in the country.
Ultimately, the elite back says that he morphed from Penn State to Stanford because his decision changed from a "football decision" to what he finally says is a "total decision." He cites the academics, the people and the football opportunities available to him at Stanford.
"I love the chances I have to play really early at Stanford," he explains. "It's possible for me to play as a freshman." The appeal of the offense at Stanford is one that Evans says also feels like a tremendous fit. "Their offense is just like me. They will run the ball, but also like to pass to the backs."
But one of the concerns Evans had in evaluating Stanford versus Penn State and Oklahoma was the strength of the football programs. The latter two teams recorded very strong seasons this year, while the Cardinal logged a disappointing 2-9. So how did the back so accustomed to success at Harrison, who pushed deep into the Georgia state playoffs each of the last three years, become comfortable with Stanford's football outlook?
"I know they had a losing season, but I know they are on the way back," he charges. Evans also gathered from talking to the players that they have a firm resolve to turn the program back into a winning program. The players he met on his December 6 official visit impacted him and made him feel at home. He says they are not much different from the guys he met at other schools, despite their academic profiles. One Stanford player he talked at length with on that visit was fellow Atlantan J.R. Lemon.
"J.R. told me it was my decision. He said he went through the same thing, deciding between Stanford and a powerhouse (Miami)," Evans says. The two talked about what Stanford offered, and how Lemon has not regretted his decision.
And though there has been public discussion about the pressure that Evans received from his family since his initial Penn State commitment, he says this decision came from within. "I think I came to this decision on my own," he proclaims. "My parents helped me through this process, but I've also really matured individually."
Evans says that despite all the pressure and scrutiny, this has been a "fun process" for him and he "has no regrets." The toughest part was calling Penn State to tell them of his final decision and decommitment. By all accounts from Jason Evans and his family, Joe Paterno and the Penn State coaches have been very patient and understanding. They have known that the back was taking a hard look at Stanford and told him they didn't want to push him to Happy Valley unless that was where Jason felt comfortable. Kudos to PSU for putting the interests of Evans at the top of their list, as contrasted to the tactics of other schools and coaches in today's recruiting game.