Zach Evans was a character in a story told here over a year ago about North Shore’s victory over Duncanville in the 2018 Texas 6A state championship. D-Ville played a 4-1-6 dime defense and mostly shut down Evans only to be torched by 4-star, Auburn-bound? quarterback Dametrius Davis throwing to 4-star, Texas A&M recruit Shadrach Banks.
The moral of the story was that passing>running, even at the high school level. The service rankings took a different lesson and made Zach Evans one of the highest rated players in the country.
North Shore is one of the most talented football programs in the nation and have won back to back 6A Texas state titles, each time triumphing over Duncanville in the final. In the last one, D-Ville quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson, 4-star heading to Texas, was out with a torn ACL.
You know who else was out in the long-expected and then wildly disappointing rematch? Zach Evans.
He was suspended, reportedly for refusing to give up his cell phone. It’s not the first time he was suspended for similar incidents. Shadrach Banks was out with injury as well and North Shore didn’t need either of them thanks to the play of Dametrious Davis.
If you scroll through his timeline on 247, you get just a snapshot of his fascinating recruitment.
Essentially, he was initially a Georgia-bound kid along with fellow Houstonian lineman Chad Lindberg. After National Signing Day came and went, the Dawgs released Evans from his NLI. Weeks turned to months without the running back going anywhere with fresh rumors every other week. Bud Elliott had him pegged for Texas A&M, then he was reportedly looking at Texas, then Florida…
He visited Ole Miss, Tennessee, A&M, and Florida before the lockdown but ended up with Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs where he is now the highest rated recruit in TCU history. Read between the lines, Gary Patterson had a chance to take a swing on a risk that none of the higher profile programs wanted to take. Sometimes these work out great, like Justin Blackmon, sometimes they work out a little less great like Devonte Fields, you never really know.
The scouting report
The senior film, limited by suspensions, was pretty promising for Evans even though the numbers were a bit down. Some of his previous film had shown a player that was occasionally too dependent on following some of his massive blockers rather than using his elite quicks to create running lanes for himself. He often liked to just follow 3-star teammate Damieon George, who he also tried to package with himself in recruiting until George secured an Alabama offer and swam alone.
As a senior you could see him reading linebackers on tight zone and realizing more of his outrageous potential on those types of running schemes.
The Katy linebacker got caught peeking into the cutback lane and Evans bounces it strong for a touchdown. He is running to George’s side though here…again. If you can find a clip where he makes a really smart cut that doesn’t take him behind George’s side let me know. Him going to TCU rather than Alabama with his tackle may be a first for him in not following behind that massive fellow.
While he ran an 11.37 100m as a junior that wasn’t terribly impressive, that was coming off football season. He competed in a SPARQ event and posted a 4.51 40, 3.91 shuttle, 34″ vertical leap, and 36′ power toss.
As you see in those numbers he’s a pretty twitchy athlete but where he’s elite is in his lateral quickness. At 4.51 he can pull away from people if he hits a crease and he has some power at 5-11, 200 pounds and was able to run through tackles at time while at North Shore. But what makes him potentially elite as a football player is those lateral jump cuts that allow him to threaten the line of scrimmage at multiple points or to clown people in the open field.
My hot take on Zach Evans is that he should move to receiver. I think a lot of elite athletes should consider receiver if they want to have a better shot at a good NFL career, especially a guy like Evans that does have some wear and tear from being a three-ish year starter for a perennial 6A title contender.
His hands are fine, he caught a few passes out of the backfield at North Shore, and I think his quicks are more likely to translate if he starts in space than if he’s asked to get there from the backfield. He doesn’t at all strike me as the sort that will accept a position change though and I don’t think Jerry Kill and Gary Patterson look at running backs and see receivers, although Patterson has seen “defensive end” before. That ain’t gonna happen either, if they couldn’t get Sewo Olonilua to move I don’t see it with Zachary Evans.
The 5-star rating and onetime “top player in the country” rankings were always ridiculous, imo. He’s a great running back prospect but he doesn’t have the same kind of elite measurable as players he was getting comparisons to, such as Adrian Peterson. Also he’s a running back, a position with declining value, and wasn’t at all obviously better than fellow 2020, Texas champion running back Jace McClellan (Aledo). Amusingly enough, McClellan followed Evans’ favorite lead blocker Damieon George to Alabama.
Zach Evans and the Horned Frogs
There’s a lot here that’s pretty interesting to track. Evans has certainly been humbled, going from being potentially the next star running back at Alabama or Georgia, to chasing down a landing spot at other blue blood schools, to ultimately ending up with Gary Patterson and TCU.
Presumably the Horned Frogs will plug him in at running back, where they are replacing Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. Here’s the interesting thing there though, the Frogs aren’t stocking him into a bare cupboard. They have redshirt freshman Daimarqua Foster, who played in a single game last year and had 8 carries for 66 yards and a score.
Foster is 5-10, 195 and ran a 10.79 100m in high school. He’s legitimately as fast as Zach Evans, maybe faster.
They also have 5-11, 195 pound RS freshman Darwin Barlow, who never seems to test well but always looks really good in the actual games thanks to silky smooth cuts.
Zach Evans has to beat these guys out and will probably need to do so legitimately because Gary Patterson doesn’t really have any pressure to play the kid if his other two young backs prove to be just as good. If Zach Evans settles on TCU and then can’t get on the field immediately because 3-star RS freshman are holding him back, that seems like major locker room trouble.
There’s also the question of how TCU’s offensive line will shake out next season after losing several starters. It won’t be as simple as cutting behind a 6-7, 350 pound teammate that is mauling the competition every snap, although the Frogs aren’t without offensive line talent.
Best case scenario here is that TCU has landed a running back that’s as talented as his onetime huge reputation in Texas suggested that can play right away and give them a deadly, two-pronged zone-read rushing attack. I guess Evans taking some time to learn wide receiver and then realizing the potential that Jalen Reagor didn’t would be an even better outcome but that’s probably not happening.
Worst case scenario is that this newest character risk project by Gary Patterson (Devonte Fields, Tipa Galeai, Casey Pachall, Trevone Boykin, Kavontae Turpin, etc) fizzles out and leaves some holes in the locker room on the way out.
If Patterson feels like he and his offensive staff have a firm grasp of that unit then this could be a great score for the Frogs.
Running backs don’t play a major role in the history of the Big 12’s offensive development save for serving occasionally as distractions for major programs before they adjust back to featuring quarterbacks and receivers and are subsequently rewarded. Texas tried to emphasize Cedric Benson but took off when they featured Vince Young in 2005. Then they had Jamaal Charles but blew up again when he left and Colt McCoy ran the show. Oklahoma moved off their Air Raid attack to feature Adrian Peterson and had mixed results. Samaje Perine ran for nearly 2k yards for them as a freshman in 2014 but his offensive coordinator was fired and replaced by Lincoln Riley.
Read up in my book: