Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn junior linebacker it was a long time coming but Mobile’s Chris Evans made his first career start pay off in a big way. Leading the team with 14 tackles, the most in over four years for an Auburn player, Evans made up for the loss of Tray Blackmon with a solid performance.
A versatile player, Evans has played each of the last two seasons in back up roles for the Tigers but said Saturday night was a different experience for him because he knew he would be starting.
“They kind of told me Wednesday,” Evans said. “They weren’t really sure but told me to be ready. That’s pretty much what they tell me every week. I was nervous. I had butterflies. I went back to my old high school days and getting ready for a big game. You just hope you go out there and don’t let the team down.
“I still couldn’t believe it until kickoff,” he added. “The defense took the field first and I went out there and looked at Coach (Will) Muschamp to get the defensive signal and that’s when it all hit me that it’s here.”
That’s one thing he didn’t do. Flying all over the field from sideline to sideline, Evans’ speed and athleticism helped him make plays against the spread offense employed by South Florida. While the game was a huge one in terms of tackles, Evans said it was far from perfect in his mind.
“I played pretty good but I didn’t play my best,” Evans said. “The coaches pointed out that I had a few busts. When Tray comes back he’s a real good linebacker. We’ll see how things go from there.
“The gameplan was pretty much what the coaches wrote up in practice,” Evans added. “We didn’t win. All the assignments weren’t perfect but we did them to the best of our ability. It’s back to the drawing boards come Tuesday and get ready for Mississippi State.”
This week the Tigers will likely be without starting weakside linebacker Merrill Johnson after he injured his shoulder in the first half of last week’s game. With Blackmon expected back in the lineup, there is a chance Evans could work in Johnson’s place to get more experience on the field for the Tigers against the Bulldogs. He said either way he’ll do whatever it takes to help the team get a victory.
“My first couple of years here I was at will (weakside linebacker) and I played a little bit of sam (strongside linebacker) before I found a home at mike (middle linebacker),” Evans said. “I’m just going to see how everything plays out Tuesday.”