Making the switch from outside to inside linebacker last season, Evans finally feels like he can play up to his speed at his new position. Although, the transition wasn’t an easy one. The new role on the field meant learning new plays and a different style of attack on the field. Sure, Evans feels comfortable now, but the process took some time to develop.
Ultimately, Evans says it was worth it.
That’s what he wants to preach to teammate Ben Davis as the redshirt freshman makes an inverted switch from inside to outside linebacker this year.
“I would say for him, embrace it,” Evans said. “I mean all it does is get you better. If you really think about it, once he gets to the point in his career when he’s about to leave, NFL scouts are going to be looking at that. They’re going to be looking at, like, ‘What can he do?’ If he can play inside and also outside, all that does is add versatility to his game.”
Davis, who redshirted last season after injuring his ankle in the preseason, entered Alabama as the No. 1 inside linebacker and the No. 5 player overall in the 2016 class. This spring, he has practiced exclusively with the outside linebackers, where coaches have focused on him specifically out of the nickel formation.
“He’s done a good job,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We just felt like Ben, athletically, might have a better chance to contribute there and he’s done a nice job. He is athletic and we’re still working him as a nickelbacker. We haven’t experimented much with him as a rusher, but that may be the next thing we try as well. I’m very pleased with his progress and I think he could be a great contributor on special teams as well.”
Like Evans, Davis enters Alabama as a former five-star recruit. That recognition comes with a heavy load of expectations, one of them being to see the field early. Davis would do well to follow Evans' patience in that area as well.
Despite serving in a key reserve role the past two seasons, Evans did not make his first career start until the Peach Bowl last year when he filled in for injured linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton. In his two starts last season, Evans combined for 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks, including a career-high 11 tackles in the national championship game against Clemson.
“Just being able to have that experience, being able to play on a big stage that I did, being able to be around good mentors like Reuben Foster, who left,” Evans said looking back. “Just being able to be around those things, man, it helps me a lot this year, so now I know whenever it comes again I’ll be ready.”
Now, it’s Davis’ turn to watch and grow. Evans believes it’s only a matter of time until the freshman follows him in that regard, too.
“I think he’ll do well,” Evans said. “I mean for him to be recruited at the University of Alabama, I feel like any guy that’s recruited here, they have a good chance at being good in the NFL. And just the fact that he can play two positions is going to look good on his resume.”